E. Illinois-Iowa Preview

Iowa likely won’t have the most potent offense in the Big Ten,

but its defense has a chance to be among the best in the

country.

Coming off their first BCS bowl victory, the ninth-ranked

Hawkeyes meet Eastern Illinois for the first time when they open

their season Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Despite an offense that ranked 89th in the Football Bowl

Subdivision with 336.3 yards per game, Iowa rode its defense to a

program record-tying 11 victories last season, which ended with a

24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

The Hawkeyes, who were eighth in the FBS last season with 15.4

points allowed per game and 10th in yards allowed (276.5), return

eight defensive starters.

Starting linebackers Pat Angerer and J.J. Edds were drafted, but

senior Jeremiha Hunter is back and coach Kirk Ferentz is expecting

big things from junior Tyler Nielsen and senior Jeff Tarpinian as

they step into starting roles.

The Hawkeyes’ secondary took a hit when cornerback Amari Spievey

decided to make the jump to the NFL, but Iowa returns strong safety

Tyler Sash, who had a team-high six interceptions last season, and

free safety Brett Greenwood, an All-Big Ten selection.

Led by Orange Bowl MVP Adrian Clayborn, who had a career-high 11

1/2 sacks last season, Iowa’s defensive line is expected to be

among the best in the nation. Clayborn, a senior, is joined by

Broderick Binns and tackles Karl Klug and Christian Ballard. Binns,

though, is suspended for Saturday’s game following a July DUI

arrest.

Iowa will also be without running back Jewel Hampton, who will

serve a one-game suspension after pleading guilty to public

intoxication following a June arrest. Hampton, who was redshirted

last season with a knee injury, is expected to get more playing

time after Brandon Wegher, who broke Hampton’s freshman rushing

record last season with eight TDs, left the team earlier this month

due to undisclosed personal issues.

“I’ve been out for too long,” Hampton said. “I’m just looking

forward to competing and trying to get back on the field.”

With Hampton and Wegher out, Adam Robinson will likely get the

majority of the carries Saturday. Robinson set an Iowa freshman

record with 834 yards and rushed for five TDs in 2009.

While the Hawkeyes have loads of talent in the backfield, the

play of senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi could determine if Iowa

will challenge for a Big Ten title. Solid play from a revamped

offensive line that has three new starters could also help Iowa

find the end zone more in 2010.

Stanzi threw for 2,417 yards with 17 TDs last season but was

picked off 15 times – tied for the most in the conference. Iowa’s

offense was second-to-last in the Big Ten in points per game (23.2)

and yards from scrimmage (4,372) last season, but Stanzi returns

with an 18-4 record as a starter.

His biggest weapons this season should be wide receivers Derrell

Johnson-Koulianos and converted quarterback Marvin McNutt.

Johnson-Koulianos, who averaged 31.5 yards on 12 kickoff returns

last season, is trying to become the first player in Iowa history

to lead the team in catches for four straight years.

Johnson-Koulianos caught 45 passes for 750 yards and two touchdowns

in 2009.

McNutt had 34 receptions for 674 yards and a team-high eight

TDs.

While Iowa is looking forward to another season directed by

Stanzi, Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo is trying to find a

replacement for former Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Christensen, who

led the Panthers to an 8-4 record and a berth in the Football

Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2009.

Redshirt sophomore Brandon Large, a junior college transfer, is

expected to start at quarterback Saturday as the defending Ohio

Valley champs face a Big Ten team for the fifth straight

season.

Eastern Illinois has lost by an average of 36.5 points in those

matchups, falling 52-3 at then-No. 14 Penn State on Oct. 10 in its

last game against a Big Ten foe.

The Panthers, ranked 16th in the FCS coaches poll, could have

senior Jimmy Potempa in the backfield with senior running back Mon

Williams out with a strained knee. Williams led Eastern Illinois

with 926 rushing yards last season, including 107 in a 48-7

first-round playoff loss to Southern Illinois.

Iowa has opened its last two seasons with victories over an FCS

opponent. The Hawkeyes, though, needed two blocked field goals in

the final seconds to defeat Northern Iowa 17-16 in last year’s

opener at Kinnick Stadium.