This was the second question from the Lindy's "Best & Brightest" short in the magazine: Who is Iowa's emerging star?
At first, I picked defensive back Micah Hyde. He wowed last season with interception returns of 66 and 72 yards. He took a lateral from Tyler Sash and dashed 66 yards, far sideline to far pylon, to basically break Michigan State's back. The Insight Bowl is a little fresher. Hyde, a 6-1, 185-pound junior, picked off Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and made four cutbacks en route to a 72-yard TD to not basically but very definitively win the game.
So, yes, emerging star, Micah Hyde. No brainer.
I brought this up to the Hawkeye Twitterati. Some agreed, but the majority brought up the point that Hyde is switching positions, moving from corner to free safety. That's not a huge factor, IMO. Iowa secondary coach Phil Parker wouldn't ask Hyde to give this a try if 1) Hyde wasn't receptive and 2) he didn't have a pretty good idea that Hyde could thrive.
So, what changed my mind? Why did I pick running back Marcus Coker?
Bottom line, I believe Coker could have a bigger impact. He's a 200-carry (give or take) running back, which should put him in the 1,200-yard range. That puts him in the top three in the Big Ten. That makes Iowa's offense work that much better and ultimately controls the ball and helps the defense.
Remember, the 6-foot, 225-pounder suffered a broken collarbone in camp last August and missed four weeks. He didn't see his first game action until week 4 during a 45-0 blowout of Ball State. Kirk Ferentz said when Coker emerged that missing four weeks of camp was like missing 10 weeks of the season. If healthy, Coker probably would've shattered the freshman rushing record.
Adam Robinson (2009) 181 for 834 yards 5 TDs
Ladell Betts (1998) 188 for 679 yards 5 TDs
Brandon Wegher (2009) 162 for 641 yards 8 TDs (TD record for frosh)
Marcus Coker (2010) 114 for 622 yards 3 TDs
Sedrick Shaw (1993) 127 for 561 yards 2 TDs
Other candidates for Emerging Star
FS Micah Hyde -- If there was an emerging star for the defense, it would be Hyde. If he's not returning punts this fall, it's because coaches feel as though they can't risk losing him. Interested to see how he takes to free safety. This position probably gives him his best shot at the NFL.
QB James Vandenberg -- He'll put up numbers, but the fact remains he threw just eight passes last season. That's OK, that's what you want, you're No. 1 QB doing it all.
C James Ferentz -- Terrific performance in the Insight. This will be his second year as a starter, so he might already have emerged.
LB James Morris -- His feet are on the ground. He's one of those players who's constantly looking to improve.
WR Keenan Davis -- Iowa needs him to emerge. Ferentz said as much after spring practice. Going off the average for the last five seasons, Iowa's No. 2 receiver has averaged 38.2 catches, 628 yards and 5.4 TDs, with the No. 2 going for more than 700 yards twice (nearly three times). That's a significant amount of production that could be headed Davis' way. Through his first two seasons, Davis has 12 catches for 186 yards and two TDs.
2010 -- Derrell Johnson-Koulianos 46 catches, 745 yards and 10 TDs
2009 -- Marvin McNutt 34 catches, 674 yards and 8 TDs
2008 -- Andy Brodell 36 catches, 533 yards and 4 TDs
2007 -- James Cleveland 36 catches, 464 yards and 0 TDs
2006 -- Andy Brodell 39 catches, 724 yards and 5 TDs