Air Hawkeye? No. 9 Iowa hopes to open things up

Iowa’s resurgence last season was powered by a punishing defense

and a rushing attack that eats up yards and time.

Don’t expect the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes to abandon their beloved

running game in 2010. But don’t be surprised if they fling the ball

around a bit more than usual either.

Iowa brings back what appears to be their most impressive

passing attack in recent memory. The often-conservative Hawkeyes

return senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi, a talented receivers in

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt and dependable tight

ends Allen Reisner and Brad Herman.

The Hawkeyes probably won’t have to get too fancy against FCS

school Eastern Illinois in Saturday’s opener. But Iowa appears to

have more than enough weapons to better the paltry 23.2 points per

game it scored last season.

”We would love to have an explosive offensive attack,

especially in the pass game. I mean, that can only help us,”

Stanzi said. ”I think we have guys that can go out there and do

that.”

It all starts with Stanzi, whose inconsistency has been a

much-discussed issue for the Hawkeyes. Stanzi threw 17 touchdowns

last season and 15 interceptions – including four picks that were

returned for touchdowns – and he spent the offseason working to cut

down on the mistakes that often put the Hawkeyes in early

holes.

”I’d like to think that all the preparation we’ve all done as

team can definitely help change some of the things last year that

put us in bad positions,” Stanzi said.

Johnson-Koulianos has a chance to become the first Iowa player

to lead the team in receiving four years in a row, even though he’s

often been on coach Kirk Ferentz’s bad side for one undisclosed

reason or another.

But Ferentz singled him out during fall camp for his strong

play, a sign that the Hawkeyes are ready to lean on him more than

ever.

McNutt converted to wide receiver after Stanzi emerged as the

starting quarterback two years ago, and he quickly took to his new

position. McNutt caught a team-high eight touchdown passes in 2009

– including a 7-yarder on the final play at Michigan State to keep

Iowa’s then-unbeaten season alive. A 6-foot-4 he gives Stanzi a big

target near the end zone.

”I have a lot more confidence going in, because I have game

experience under me. So, it’s really not as if it’s the first time

I’m going to be playing in front of a crowd,” McNutt said.

Iowa’s reserve wideouts include senior Colin Sandeman, who will

likely make his impact on punt returns, and sophomore Keenan Davis,

a highly touted recruit out of nearby Cedar Rapids who has bulked

up to 215 pounds and could emerge as the Hawkeyes third receiver

before long.

Iowa lost one of its top offensive options in tight end Tony

Moeaki, but the Hawkeyes believe they’ll be able to compensate for

his loss with Reisner and Herman, a pair of reliable tight ends for

an offense that uses them extensively.

Ferentz also indicated Tuesday that 6-7 freshman C.J.

Fiedorowicz, the top prize in Iowa’s most recent recruiting class,

could also be a factor at tight end this fall.

”He’ll make some mistakes – we’ll have a lot of guys make

mistakes, but hopefully work around those. I think he’ll do a good

job, based on what we’ve seen in practice,” Ferentz said.

With eight starters back on defense and a pair of talented

sophomore running backs in Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton, Iowa

has all the ingredients to grind out wins in its trademark

fashion.

But if the Hawkeyes want to open it up in 2010, it looks like

they’ve got the weapons to do so.

”I think we have a chance to be better in the passing game, and

when you have that kind of experience you hope that’s a byproduct

of that good production,” Ferentz said. ”I think for the most

part the receivers have practiced well, and I include the tight

ends in that group, and I think our quarterbacks have done a pretty

good job too. Our goal is to be balanced and we’ll get good

production in the passing game.”