Behind Enemy Lines: Tom Kakert previews Iowa

I did a special article previewing the Cy-Hawk football game from an Iowa State perspective with Tom Kakert of On3’s Hawkeye Report – you can check that out, as well as their site here. He was kind of enough to allow us to use the same format and answer questions from the opposite perspective. Hope you all enjoy!

1.      Both Iowa and Iowa State have had to deal with and adjust to the loss of players in the sports gambling investigation. What has been the impact to the Hawkeye roster and how much of a distraction/challenge has it presented to the team and coaching staff?

TK: I think more than anything it’s been an annoyance for Kirk Ferentz and his staff. Ferentz has expressed some frustration at feeling like Iowa (and ISU) are being singled out nationally on this issue. They have really only lost three players to the gambling investigation and only one was really significant in terms of time and that was to Noah Shannon.

Shannon is a leader and key figure on the defensive line, but it’s also a pretty deep positon for the Hawkeyes, so it’s not a huge impact. Iowa still hopes the NCAA changes course and cuts into his season long suspension.

They probably feel the loss of Jermari Harris a bit more this weekend. He’s an experienced cornerback who would help Iowa in their first road test of the season. The good news for the Hawkeyes is that he will be back next week from suspension and into the lineup..

2.      Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is set up with a 25.0 points per game contract stipulation. Did the Utah State game bring any clarity to potential offensive changes?

TK: What changed probably depended on when you were watching the Utah State game. If you were an Iowa fan watching the first half of the first quarter, you would say, that’s a new offense and we like it.

If you were watching the second and third quarter of the game, Iowa fans would tell you that it looked like last year and not in a good way.

The run game looked a little different in terms of scheme, but the results were not different from last year as Iowa gained just 88 yards on 36 carries. Kirk Ferentz has spent all fall camp praising the improved offensive line, so if it’s not good this week, there’s going to be some complaining from the fans. The passing game was close to the same as well with 10 of the 18 completions to tight ends Luke Lachey and Erick All.

3. What can you tell us about quarterback Cade McNamara’s style of play of both and do you expect them to play two on Saturday?

TK: The story of Cade McNamara at Iowa took a turn on August 12th when he strained his quad on a scramble during the annual Kids Day open practice. Since then he has been trying to recover as much as possible. His status last week was listed as questionable and he played every snap until Iowa was able to build up a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter. Then he gave way to Deacon Hill.

McNamara is going to be questionable again this week. He’s not 100% and his mobility is limited, but he’s a tough guy with a high tolerance for pain. He will be out there on Saturday until he can’t be or if the score get out of hand, one way or another.

As far as his style of play, he has a quick release and if you take away the drops last week, he should have had a completion percentage of 74% against Utah State. But, as mentioned, his mobility is not great right now and I would look for more shot gun than Iowa normally runs to help keep him safe and upright.

4.      Who are some of the other players that Iowa State fans should be aware of on the offensive side of the ball?

TK: I will start at running back where the lead two backs are Kaleb Johnson and Leshon Williams. Johnson is big, strong, fast, and powerful. He’s the lead back with Williams likely to get a good amount of work. He’s a grinder type back who will get the tough yards when needed.

At receiver, you start with Luke Lachey and Erick All at tight end. They were targeted 13 times in the opener with Lachey catching a team high seven passes. Iowa only had two wide receivers catch passes last week and one scored and that was Seth Anderson. Veteran Nico Ragaini caught a pair of passes on six targets. I’d also keep an eye on Kaleb Brown and Diante Vines.

5.      The Iowa defense once again looks strong. Who are the key players to watch on that side of the ball?

TK: This should be a pretty strong defense again this year even after losing All American Jack Campbell. New middle linebacker Jay Higgins had a career high 16 tackles in the opener and Nick Jackson is his solid running mate.

Up front, Ames native Joe Evans is a strong edge player, along the Deontae Craig, who had Iowa’s only sack last week. Logan Lee, Yahya Black and Aaron Graves man the middle.

On the back end, Cooper DeJean is a big time player and Xavier Nwankpa had the Hawkeyes only pick last week and seems poised to take a significant leap as a player this year.

6.      Give us a couple of keys to the game from a Hawkeye perspective and how do you see this one playing out?

TK: I think this will be a pretty tight and low scoring game. The most talented units, IMHO, are on the defensive side of the ball and when you throw in the fact that both defensive coordinators are among the best in the country it leads to the conclusion that points will be at a premium.

Turnovers are going to be huge. Can Iowa create any on defense against a young quarterback? I think special teams will be massive. One big return could be significant if it leads to points.

I also think the health of McNamara is huge for Iowa. He got banged around in the second half last week and he was already pretty limited. Can Iowa get their wide receivers more involved this week?

This one comes down to the fourth quarter and probably a field goal decides it. Could go either way.

7. Iowa State punter Tyler Perkins outkicked Tory Taylor last week by a yards per kick measurement. Do you have any strong feelings on this competition?

TK: This is a good and fun question. I think it’s flying in the radar as a good head to head battle. I think both sets of fans would say they would be exceedingly happy if they didn’t see their punter at all because they were scoring points on every possession. I think it’s a neat little battle within the battle type story. But, I will say this, both guys will have a say in the outcome because field position will be extremely important.