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Big Ten Network visits Iowa City, gives Hawkeyes plus rating
August 10, 2012 - Andy Heintz
A few years ago, the Big Ten Network started a preseason multiple-show program that featured every football program in the Big Ten Conference. The BTN staff of Dave Revsine, Howard Griffith and Gerry DiNardo sat in on one practice from each school, analyzed what they saw and broke down the practice in a one-hour segment on the Big Ten Network.
The network began its tour this season in Iowa City, and the now four-person crew (BTN writer Tom Dienhart was added to the panel) liked what they saw in this year's Hawkeyes. The consensus was that the team will be young, which we already knew, but all of them also said the team is much improved since the spring, which is the last time the BTN got a chance to see the Hawkeyes up close and personal.
James Vandenberg was mentioned as being a key in the Iowa offense. When he played well last year, Iowa won games, but when he struggled -- mostly on the road -- the Hawkeyes lost games. If he plays well, the BTN crew feels like Iowa will be right there with some other teams in the Legends Division.
Griffith and DiNardo came away very impressed with true freshman running back Barkley Hill, but also said fellow freshman Greg Garmon also looked great in spurts. Both agreed though that Damon Bullock will get the first chance to secure the starting spot. In the last 16 games when Iowa has rushed for more than 120 yards, the Hawkeyes are 14-2 but in the past 10 games when the team has not reached 120 rushing yards, Iowa is just 1-9.
The most impressive unit on the field during practice, according to the BTN crew, was the secondary. In fact, Griffith said this Iowa secondary "is the best secondary we have seen at Iowa since we have been covering them on BTN." The back seven is built to handle pressure if need to blitz more due to a young defensive line. DiNardo also thinks true freshman Kevin Buford will see action this year back there. The Iowa defense was in the middle of the pack last year, recording its worst points allowed per game average since 2000.
The crew feels like the schedule early favors Iowa's young team, and DiNardo said you couldn't ask for a better first six games if you are a young team looking to get better each week, which Iowa will be. The schedule gets tougher as the year goes on, but the BTN crew feels like Iowa has the players to match up with the spread offenses in the league this year.
Two under the radar players that were singled out were wide receiver Don Shumpert and cornerback Torrey Campbell. Campbell looked great as the No. 2 corner in the nickel packages but his playing time could be determined by how fast Greg Castillo recovers from a minor injury. The top newcomers this year in the eyes of the BTN crew are freshmen Ruben Lile and Hill. Griffith does not think Lile will play this year but he said he can flat out run and will be a big part of the future moving forward. Hill has a chance to play right away at running back.
Overall, the Big Ten Network loves how Iowa practices, said they are very organized and has very well-run practices. The young team will be good if Vandenberg plays well and the offensive line can open up holes for the inexperienced running backs.
Iowa opens the season Saturday, Sept. 1, at Solider Field in Chicago, Illinois, against Northern Illinois. The Hawkeyes then have four straight home games, including the Big Ten opener against Minnesota on the back end.
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