A few years ago, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned the top 40-something players on a football team really set the course for where that team goes.
Makes sense. It's an all-inclusive number. You can cover the two deeps in a 40-something. Expand it a little farther and you can add the specialists. Take it a few inches farther and you can throw in a few key special teams players, true freshmen and a few candidates at wide receiver.
So, this will be the summer project on this blog. For the next nine weeks, we'll run through the top 45 players on Iowa's roster.
What went into this: These are players who need to come through and ones who, I believe, can. Also, position factored, but 45 covers a lot of ground as you'll soon find out. Potential did sneak in for a few. I'm just as interested in seeing a healthy Carl Davis as you are. Another thought that was in the back of my mind was "best."
For Iowa to punch through in 2012 -- defining "punch through" will be an ongoing process, it's not easy and it's on a blurry horizon here in June -- the Hawkeyes' "best" players have to be their "best" players. If Iowa's defense is going to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage, cornerbacks Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery have to be "best." If Iowa's O-line wants to be a dominant force in the Big Ten, center James Ferentz is going to have to be "best," best at line calls, best at leading by example, best at setting standard for young players (remember, redshirt freshman Austin Blythe is probably lined up right next door).
This isn't about setting limits on a player. There will be a wide receiver who tears this to pieces. This also isn't about setting value on a player. I think that's probably a given year in, year out for most football teams. (Although, running back at Iowa isn't what it is at other schools. Just isn't. Not with all the change it's gone through in the last year. You could argue Iowa is sort of like the Denver Broncos during the Mike Shanahan days, where system meant as much as the back, even though I would argue that Terrell Davis bucked that notion.)
This is a conversation piece. I hope you let me know where you believe a player should be on this list.
This is an introduction. One theme that emerged coming out of spring was the "young team" theme. Kirk Ferentz said it. James Vandenberg said it. I said it. It's apparent. They'll be shortish, but hopefully these give you something to go on with a player who hasn't contributed and who you might not know. (Up front, I don't know a lot about Casey Kreiter, but I don't remember a bobbled snap last season.)Iowa's punter next fall might be a true freshman from West Virginia. The unknowns abound for this team. In June, it abounds for most of college football except Alabama.