With no Hawkeyes game this weekend and no seven-hour rain delay to keep things interesting, let me do my best to provide some entertainment — or whatever you’d like to think of Iowa football.
Let me be crystal clear: I’m not the Hawkologist. But I’m going to use his iconic 6-point pain index to properly assess what we’ve seen through 6 games. Then we’ll hand out mid-season awards to some Hawkeyes who probably don’t cause a whole lot of pain on Saturdays.
So sit back, relax and let’s enjoy some aesthetically pleasing punt coverage.
I appreciate anybody taking the time to read whatever you’d like to call this. I respect your precious time. If you’d like to read more, you might unlock a new level of the pain index. Let’s just move on to the next portion of this piece.
Pain assessment: Clubber Lang
Phil Parker and LeVar Woods have been tasked with carrying one heckuva burden this year. And for all intents and purposes they’ve done their job and then some.
Starting with the defense, they’re third in the country in total defense. Their 2022 resume features a shutout and three games without allowing a touchdown. In fact they’ve only allowed more than 10 points just once — against #4 Michigan.
The special teams has mostly been good as well. DL Lukas Van Ness and P Tory Taylor have each have earned special teams player of the week honors. Taylor’s excellence is well documented and nationally recognized.
Here’s the bad news: It hasn’t been enough, which isn’t entirely their fault, but let’s talk about it.
While the defense continues to get the ball back to their offense, they haven’t replicated 2021’s success in the turnover department. The self-proclaimed ‘Ball Hawks’ have 6 interceptions in 6 games. That’s not bad, but it’s middle of the pack in the Big Ten. It hasn’t been the problem. This defense intercepted a country-best 25 passes last year — they may not reach half that total by the end of 2022.
As for the special teams, both three-point losses to Iowa State and Illinois included missed field goals. Yes, the conditions weren’t the best and both kickers are freshmen. But Kirk Ferentz has been on the record noting that kick and punt coverage have not been great. The unit hasn’t had any big plays either. And that lack of ‘splash plays’ is the main component keeping the Hawkeyes defense and special teams from being capable of carrying Iowa to key victories.
Pain assessment: Mild pain
Alright, I’ll let the actual Hawkologist use the pain index from this point forward. Let’s give out some awards:
Cooper DeJean has burst onto the scene as the newest member of the Dough Boyz, and starting sophomore cornerback is my selection for most valuable player.
DeJean has made a huge impact on both defense and special teams. He accounts for half of the team’s interceptions with three, including a sizzling pick 6 against Rutgers
On special teams DeJean has not only paid his dues, he’s impressed special teams coordinator LeVar Woods, who made sure to give him and fellow defensive back Terry Roberts credit at last week’s presser.
“Roberts and DeJean, they’re the first guys to run down on punt coverage. That doesn’t happen on a lot of teams.”
Honorable mention: Sam LaPorta
Most underappreciated Hawkeye:
It has to be the deer hunting expert Jack Campbell.
The starting inside linebacker leads the Big Ten in tackles with 62, but aside from his safety in Week 1 he’s flown under the radar. But he’s been without question the most steady presence on a defense that’s kept elite backs between the tackles and the overall damage this season at a minimum.
Honorable mention: Arland Bruce IV
Most missed Hawkeye:
Former Hawkeye receiver Charlie Jones takes the cake here. Now a Purdue Boilermaker, Jones leads the entire Big Ten in touchdowns with nine. He’s also a close second in yards with 735.
For reference, the entire Hawkeyes passing offense has generated 939 yards and two touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Tyler Linderbaum
Most likely to make a post-bye splash:
I’ll go with running back Kaleb Johnson. A steady rushing attack is the only way the Hawkeyes offense can simply give their defense some time to catch their breath.
The freshman broke out against Nevada with seven carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns. It was the only enjoyable aspect of that night
Johnson leads the Hawkeyes in yards per carry with 4.6 and touchdowns with 3. He’ll likely continue to split carries with Leshon Williams but as the season goes along, leaning on the powerful 6-foot, 212- pound Johnson at the very least SHOULD be a big part of the game plan.
Honorable mention: Riley Moss