Phil Steele has become the E.F. Hutton of college football national gurus. For those of you who don’t remember the company’s world-famous commercials back in the 1980s, E.F. Hutton touted its stock market success and left you with a simple phrase: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
Well, Phil Steele has that kind of clout, too. Nobody crunches the numbers on college football quite like Mr. Steele. His annual preseason guide is a must-buy and not for the articles. The numbers are free-flowing and crammed into the tiniest spot on a page. But they have power, as we learned last year after Iowa’s 22-21 loss at Minnesota.
Phil Steele knows his players, too, and he releases his preseason all-conference teams on his website each spring. Today, he unleashed the Big Ten, and two Iowa players landed on the first team.
Wide receiver Keenan Davis, who caught 50 passes last year for Iowa, headlines Iowa’s offensive honorees. Cornerback Micah Hyde was tabbed first-team defense. Nobody would argue that Hyde deserves that nomination, but Davis is maybe a bit of a surprise. But not overly so.
Iowa totaled eight players on Steele’s top four teams. Linebacker James Morris was a second-teamer with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and center James Ferentz landing on the third team. Fourth-team members include safety Tanner Miller, linebacker Christian Kirksey and left tackle Brandon Scherff, who has yet to play a snap at that position.
Perhaps the greatest surprise for Iowa fans might be at quarterback. Senior James Vandenberg passed for 3,022 yards and 25 TDs, last year and finished third among Big Ten quarterbacks in passing yards per game at 232.5. Vandenberg’s the top returnee in that statistical category, followed by Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who averaged 167.2 yards per game, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (162.3 ypg) and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase (160.7 ypg). I’d say 55 yards a game is pretty significant.
Robinson was listed as Steele’s first-team QB and rightly so. He’s a dynamic dual-threat player and has a real shot at the Heisman Trophy. Martinez was listed third and Scheelhaase was fourth. Steele’s surprise was at second-team with Ohio State sophomore Braxton Miller, who passed for 1,159 yards last year as a freshman. While Miller has tons of talent, it’s a real stretch to think new Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer will mold Miller into the next Tim Tebow this year, let alone outplay a returning senior who topped 3,000 yards and threw just seven interceptions last year.
Vandenberg passed for 399 yards and four TDs in the greatest comeback in Iowa football history, a 31-27 win against Pittsburgh. Miller completed 1-of-4 passes in an improbable win at Illinois. Granted Miller had a couple of nice performances last but nothing to push him ahead of Martinez, Scheelhaase, Vandenberg or even Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray entering this season.
While Phil Steele, who resides in Ohio, remains a college football genius, he might have miscalculated with Miller, maybe like we all did with the Mayans and that whole end-of-the-world thing. Maybe Miller will be better than Vandenberg in a year or two, and the Mayans will be right in 7,000 years. Or Steele could be right with Miller this year, and his projections forever will remain stainless. Hopefully that doesn’t coincide with the end of the world.
— Scott Dochterman
– Off Tackle Empire is offering its thoughts on Iowa’s head football coach and his two coordinators.
While it’s flattering to Kirk Ferentz overall (though not entirely), it doesn’t paint OC Greg Davis as the bridge from the Insight Bowl to the Rose Bowl.
Greg Davis thrived on consistently boring screens, slant patterns, and QB’s who could take it upon themselves to make the coach look good despite the obnoxious plays that were called.
– The list of the 60 players invited to June’s NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago has been released. Five players are from the Big Ten. Iowa’s Matt Gatens isn’t among them.
– How much money did Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany earn in 2010? Almost $1.8 million.
– Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa had a game of games against Iowa in 2010. Unfortunately, the game-deciding touchdown pass he through in the Wildcats’ come-from-14-points-behind victory was costly. Persa landed the wrong way after the throw and tore an Achilles tendon.
He returned last season, but he was no longer a threat to run. He could still throw and quarterback, though, and got a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this month. Alas, he tweaked the same area, will have surgery in August, and will halt his football career.
– Illinois is trying to sell football season-tickets. It has 1,600 of them available for $99 each. They aren’t great seats, but who’s to complain at that price?
Purdue is selling 7,000 season-tickets for $98. They are in the south end zone of Ross-Ade Stadium, and have been knocked down from $147 last year.
Though it had a mild renaissance on the field in 2011 (7-6), Purdue was only 51st in NCAA football attendance with 45,225 fans per home game. Illinois was 42nd with an average home crowd of 49,548.
– The Big East already stretched conference basketball tournaments to the heights (depths?) of goofiness by having all 16 of its teams come to New York to play for the championship.
Who knows how many Big East teams there are or will be tomorrow, let alone in years to come, but the plan is to have a six-round, 18-team tourney when Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple and UCF join the league.
– Compiled by Mike Hlas