Picking the best players of the Ferentz era

There were a few no-brainers, but there also were some tug-o-wars

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March 28, 2014 | 3:42 pm

This exercise allowed some insight on what has made Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz's teams work at Iowa.

For example, just try to pick an all-Ferentz era offensive line and find a spot for all of the players who made a splash in the NFL. Now, that wasn't the guide when colleagues Scott Dochterman, Mike Hlas and I sat down and picked our all-Ferentz teams. What players did at Iowa served as the rudder.

Still, that O-line was a musical chairs of players who you know just by their last names. Gallery, Steinbach, Nelson, Bulaga, Yanda and Reiff. Who gets left out of that? Yeah, not so easy.

O-line was a jam up. D-line was right there. Again, players you know by their last name. Clayborn, Cole, King, Roth, Babineaux, Klug and Kampman.

Some positions were easier. There were a ton of great names at running back, but we all fell into agreement on that one. Quarterback wasn't tricky, but you could make arguments where you would place the top three.

Some positions also were easily broken down by numbers. Some numbers were just too good to ignore (hi, Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos).

For me, middle linebacker was the sweat box. I also fudged some at tight end. I used the No. 2 TE spot. Stop judging, Iowa runs that around 33 percent of the time.

Some positions even Ferentz's sister (hey, he always uses this line) could pick. You know which ones they are.

Broken down by class, 2002 and 2003 put the most on the list with eight apiece. The 2009-10 classes were next with six each. The 2000 class put one player on the list, as did the '12 class. That sheds light on where things stand going into next season.

One thing that jumped out to me: Ferentz teams have produced Outland, Groza, Mackey, Doak Walker, Davey O'Brien, AP national player of the year, two Silver football (Chicago Tribune Big Ten MVP), three B1G O-linemen of the year and one B1G D-lineman of the year.

That's a lot of hardware. It's also a tribute to the players and the teaching.

Quarterback -- The final three I came up with were: Brad Banks, Drew Tate and Ricky Stanzi.

Banks had perhaps the best season of any player in the Ferentz era. In 2002, he passed for 3,155 yards and 30 TDs with just five interceptions. He won, deep breath, the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's top QB), Associated Press national player of the year and the Silver Football Award. He was a finalist for the Maxwell Award (nation's top player) and the Walter Camp Player of the Year.

And, oh yeah, Banks finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, losing out to USC's Carson Palmer.

But Banks did it just one year? Well, that's true, but he also holds Iowa's career pass efficiency record with 155.53. Banks also was the QB for Iowa's first undefeated Big Ten team (8-0) in 80 years, a team that shared the B1G title with Ohio State, which went on to win the national title.

Drew Tate was the wizard of the 2004 Big Ten co-champion. The play he finished at Michigan after having his helmet torn off goes into the top five plays of the Ferentz era. Tate was first-team all-Big Ten that season and capped it with "The Catch," Tate to Holloway for a 56-yard TD that beat Nick Saban's LSU in the '05 Capital One Bowl. Tate also happens to be No. 2 in Iowa history in yardage (8,292) and TD passes (61).

Stanzi is third in Iowa history in yards (7,377) and TD passes (56). In '10, he set Iowa's season record for pass efficiency with 157.63. It's kind of insane to think he was never even a second-team all-Big Ten selection.

The pick -- Banks (from Belle Glade to a Mississippi juco to Iowa to Heisman runner-up)

Running back -- I had a final four: Shonn Greene, Fred Russell, Ladell Betts and Albert Young.

Greene's story is nuts. He twice flunked out of Iowa and ended up making things right academically at Kirkwood. Living away from home and without a scholarship, he supported himself working in the warehouse for $8 an hour at McGregor's Furniture Company.

“Yeah, you appreciate it more. This stuff can be taken away from you just like that,” Greene said. “It’s a privilege to be a Hawkeye. It’s a blessing.”

Iowa stuck with Greene; Greene stuck with Iowa. The payoff was the greatest season ever by an Iowa running back. Iowa was a championship-caliber team in the second half of '08 because of a bruising O-line and Greene, a 235-pound appliance. He finished the

year with 1,850 yards and 20 TDs, both Iowa records. Most impressive number? Greene rushed 307 times, second most in Iowa history behind Sedrick Shaw (316). Second-most impressive number? Greene averaged 6.0 yards a carry.

Mind boggling.

Russell was the RB for the 2002-03 teams and is fifth on Iowa's career rushing list (2.760 yards). Betts played behind some let's say "developmental" O-lines in the late '90s and early 2000s and sits as Iowa's No. 2 career rusher (3,686). Young is third with 3,173 yards.

The pick -- Greene

Fullback -- After Jeremy Allen, there's Edgar Cervantes, Brett Morse and Tom Busch.

Allen made the fullback position a legitimate threat in 2001, rushing for 247 yards and four touchdowns and catching 20 passes for 264 yards and another four TDs. Iowa used Allen, who went to Iowa as a shot putter, in a lot of one-back sets, where he could block ably or jump out into the flat.

Cervantes was the last fullback even thought of as a weapon. In his two seasons as starter, he rushed 55 times for 262 yards and two TDs. In 2003, he caught 17 passes for 137 yards.

Will Mark Weisman approach these numbers? No. Weisman is a running back. In my mind, he's THE running back in '13. When I say THE, I mean I think if anyone gets 20-plus carries a game, it's going to be Weisman.

The pick -- Allen

Wide receiver -- Six names standout: Marvin McNutt, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Kevin Kasper, Clinton Solomon, Ed Hinkel and Mo Brown.

All six names are top 20 in Iowa history. After an otherworldly 2011, McNutt owns the career receiving yardage (2,861) and career TD  reception records (28). DJK holds the career receptions record with 170, just ahead of McNut (170) and Kasper (157).

McNutt set all the season records in 2011 -- receptions (82), yards (1,135) and TDs (12). Actually, he tied Kasper with the 82 receptions, which is really saying something for Kasper, who caught 82 passes for 1,010 yards and seven TDs on a 2000 team that went 3-9. Kasper, a sixth-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos, wins points for carrying the banner as far as he could take it during a down year.

Here's where they sit on Iowa's career receiving list: McNutt No. 1, DJK No. 2, Kasper No. 6, Solomon No. 9, Hinkel No. 16 and Brown, whose 2002 (11 TDs, 20.1 a catch) was brilliant, No. 17.

The picks (three) -- McNutt (Big Ten WR of the year in '11), DJK and Kasper

Tight end -- The four names I zeroed in on were Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers and Tony Moeaki.

From there, Clark won the 2002 John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top TE. He caught 43 passes for 742 yards and four TDs. That's 17.3 yards per catch for a TE. That's why the 2002 Hawkeyes aren't 8-0 in the Big Ten without Clark, who's looking for one more season in the NFL sun.

Chandler, who's made a home for himself with the Buffalo Bills, caught 47 and 46 passes in back-to-back seasons. That's right there with Clark and Marv Cook for Iowa TEs.

Myers, who signed a free agent deal with the Giants after catching 79 -- 79!!! -- passes with the Raiders last season, caught 34 passes for 441 yards and four TDs as a senior in '08. He was a last scholarship guy from Prairie City, Iowa.

If Moeaki would've gotten four healthy seasons, he would've left a trail of records. As a senior in '09, he caught 30 passes for 387 yards and four TDs. You could make an argument that he might be the best complete athlete of the Ferentz era.

The picks -- Clark (one of Iowa's 21 consensus all-Americans) and Myers (hey, he played No. 2 TE in '08, before getting promoted when Moeaki was hurt).

Offensive line -- Let's not kid anyone here. This is the first tier of names: Robert Gallery, Riley Reiff, Bryan Bulaga, Eric Steinbach, Bruce Nelson, Marshal Yanda. The next tier includes Dace Richardson, Julian Vandervelde, Rob Bruggeman, Brian Ferentz, Seth Olsen, David Porter, Kyle Calloway and Markus Zusevics.

Gallery, the second pick of the '04 NFL draft, won the 2003 Outland Trophy (nation's top interior lineman). He also was the B1G's OL of the year in '03. Eric Steinbach won the B1G OL of the year in 2002. He also joins Gallery as one of Iowa's 21 consensus all-Americans. Nelson was first-team all-Big Ten, a Rimington Award (nation's top center) finalist and a second-round pick in the '03 NFL draft. Bulaga was the B1G OL of the year in '09, first-team all-Big Ten and was a first-round NFL pick.

The last spot on the top five comes down to Reiff vs. Yanda. Cue the epic anthem music.

I went with Yanda because of what he meant to the 2006 OL. Yes, that team might be one of your least favorites. It skidded to 6-6 with a Kinnick loss to Western Michigan ending the season. Yanda started at right tackle and then moved to left tackle. He was virtually unrecruited out of Anamosa High School with iffy academics. He went to North Iowa Area Community College, where then-Iowa OL coach Reese Morgan found him. Morgan liked his toughness. That's probably when we should've started listening.

Yanda was a third-round pick with the Baltimore Ravens. He is a Pro Bowl and All-Pro guard. He was a second-team all-Big Ten pick in '06, more a product of Iowa's dismal season and, perhaps his position switch.

Reiff was a first-team all-Big Ten pick in '11. He also was a first-round NFL draft pick with the Detroit Lions. Iowa recruited him as a DE, but that switch was made before his first camp. As a redshirt frosh in '09, Reiff started at guard. In the Orange Bowl, he displaced Calloway, a career-long starter at right tackle, and shut down future first-round pick Derrick Morgan. Remember Aldon Smith in the 2010 Insight Bowl? Me neither.

The picks -- Gallery, Steinbach, Nelson, Bulaga (hey, he played guard as a true frosh in '07) and Yanda.

Defensive line -- So many brilliant names here. Here are some names that didn't make it, but maybe should've: Derrick Pickens, Jerry Montgomery, Derreck Robinson, Tyler Luebke, Bryan Mattison, Kenny Iwebema, Matt Kroul, Broderick Binns and Christian Ballard.

I boiled this one down to two teams. Here are the names: Adrian Clayborn, Howard Hodges, Matt Roth and Aaron Kampman at DE; Colin Cole, Karl Klug, Mitch King and Jonathan Babineaux.

Somehow, only one of these guys, King, was Big Ten defensive lineman of the year. What what? Clayborn is one of Iowa's 21 consensus

all-Americans and, thus, has his portrait hanging in Iowa's football complex (19 career sacks). Hodges was a two-time second-team all-Big Ten pick (21 sacks in two years). Kampman finished with 18 career sacks, with six of those coming as a true freshman linebacker. Roth finished his career with 22 sacks.

Cole doesn't get as much credit as, say, Bob Sanders, but the Florida native helped changed the course of Iowa football as much as anyone. He played end and tackle. He finished his career with 47 tackles for loss and 23 sacks. King finished with 55 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. He was a short-area dynamite commando. Ferentz has called him one of the best players to go through in the last 10 years. Klug finished with 31 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in two years as starter. Babineaux holds the season record for tackles for loss (25 in '04).

There will be some arguments here.

The picks -- Clayborn, Cole, King and Roth.

Linebackers -- I kept this true to position. The middle linebackers played middle linebacker. The weakside, the outside, I kept that in line. So, there is some breakage and there will be some argument, but hey, that's what these things are all about, right?

The names Pat Angerer, Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, Mike Humpal, A.J. Edds and Grant Steen.

Hodge and Greenway might be the most decorated. Both were two-time first-team all-Big Ten picks (2003-04 for Hodge; 2004-05 for Greenway). Angerer was first team in '09 and second-team in '08. Edds was second team in '09. Steen was second team in '02. I think that speaks to the non-numbers nature of Iowa's OLB spot. It's a cover, leverage, read spot more than attack.

Angerer, who finished his career with six interceptions, made two all-American teams (FWAA, CFN). Greenway was a second-team all-American on a couple of different teams.

Angerer or Hodge? Angerer had six career picks, including five in '08, but Hodge had more tackles for loss (27 to 11.5) and more sacks (7 to 2). Hodge played on two Big Ten championship teams.

Greenway is a top three defensive player in the Ferentz era.

The Picks -- Angerer (MLB),  Greenway (WLB) and Edds (OLB).

Secondary -- Bob Sanders is the MVP of the Ferentz era. The strong safety set a new path for teams that desperately needed identity. In his first game, he chased down and took out an all-American punt returner from Kansas State. He brought a toughness and tenacity that Iowa kind of thought it had in the early years under Ferentz but was yet to be in touch with it.

Sanders, NFL defensive player of the year in '07, was a three-time first-team all-Big Ten pick. The fact that he's not one of Iowa's 21 consensus gives Ferentz a facial tic, I think.

The other names considered: Sean Considine, Tyler Sash, Derek Pagel and Brett Greenwood at safety. The final five corners were Amari Spievey, Micah Hyde, Jovon Johnson, Charles Godfrey and Shaun Prater.

Speivey, a safety for the Detroit Lions, had to leave Iowa because of academics. He came back in '08 and '09 and became Iowa's shutdown corner. His junior season, teams through at him and he picked off four passes. In '09, teams smartened up and he had just two picks. Hyde, a Packers draft pick in April, won the Big Ten defensive back of the year award last season. Johnson, the CFL defensive player of the year in 2012, had 17 -- 17!!!! -- interceptions in his Iowa career, one off the record held by Devon Mitchell and the guy the stadium is named after.

Prater, a Cincinnati Bengals draft pick, finished his career with seven picks. Godfrey, who'll begin his sixth season with the Carolina Panthers, picked off seven passes in his career.

Sash, a New York Giant, is Iowa's record holder for season interception return yards (203) and career INT return yards (392). Considine, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens last year, made an impact with everything he did on the field at Iowa. Pagel went from walk-on to second-team all-Big Ten to New York Jets draft pick. Greenwood was a four-year starter who finished his career with 12 interceptions and 21 pass breakups.

The Picks -- Sanders and Considine. Spievey and Johnson.

Specialists

Kicker -- The nominees are Nate Kaeding (Iowa's all-time leading scorer, FG record holder), Kyle Schlicher (made 21 FGs in '04, a season that saw a B1G title by the narrowest of margins) and Mike Meyer (holds Iowa record for consecutive PATs).

The Pick -- Kaeding made 67 of 83 field goal attempts in his four-year career at Iowa. That's 81 percent. That's amazing. Kaeding, who retired from the NFL recently as the No. 2 kicker in FG accuracy (86.2 percent), pushed Iowa forward as much as any position player. In the 2000 overtime victory at Penn State, he made four field goals in a 26-23 win that pointed Iowa toward the map if not put it on the map.

Punter -- The top two are Ryan Donahue and Jason Baker. Both were great.

The Pick -- Donahue punted a Big Ten record 86 times as a redshirt freshman in '07. He still averaged 41.1 yards a punt. Donahue has five of 14 longest punts in school history, covering 82 (second), 76 (fifth), 73, twice (10th) and 71 (14th) yards.    

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