Nebraska will close their 2012 season at Iowa the day after Thanksgiving. The Hawkeyes come out of the spring with a whole new look on offense and defense, which should make things interesting heading into the fall.
HuskerOnline.com caught up with HawkeyeReport.com publisher Tom Kakert to get his thoughts and perspective on Iowa as they come out of the spring.
With two new coordinators and a completely new face in Greg Davis running the offense, how different was the feel this spring in Iowa City?
"I think everybody kind of got invigorated. There was a more invigorated feel. You kind of felt the last couple of years after the Orange Bowl season that things started to get maybe a little stale. I think that was maybe the feel you got and you kind of saw it in performance. Not that people were just going through the motions or not trying to win, but this change has seemed to put pep in everybody's step, including the players and the coaches. I think the fans are energized again, because after the Insight Bowl you kind of felt like everything was heading the wrong direction.
"I don't know that there will be a drastic change, but it will be different because Phil Parker is not going to stay 4-3 all the time and kind of stay in a base zone coverage. Phil Parker is going to be a little more aggressive and he's going to bring the corners up a little bit and play a little more press coverage and blitz a little more. With Greg Davis the offense may not be drastically different, they aren't going to sit in the shotgun and play the spread or anything like that all the time, but the play calls are going to be different and the formations are going to be a little different and he's going to be bring a different flavor to the offensive side of the football."
If Davis had his druthers, do you think he'd like to be more spread based like he was towards the end of his time at Texas, or do you think he'd like to be more pro-style?
"I think it's going to depend on the quarterback he has. Right now I think it's going to be more pro-style, but I think we are going to see more 'tempo' from Iowa. Where before Iowa was more of a grind it out and run it and push people around methodical type of offense. Davis talked a lot about and you saw it in practice was tempo - being a little quicker. That's the thing in college football today. Teams are trying to play quicker and it's going to be at a quicker pace and they are going to try and spread the ball out a little bit more.
"You might see more shotgun from Iowa. You might see more of that 'spreadish' look, but the hurdle Iowa has right now is they are pretty limited at wide receiver. They've got just two proven guys. What you may see though is two tight ends split out or running backs split out in some five wide sets that will be a little bit more unique to Iowa, where you might not see that with other schools."
How big of a concern is the running back position right now with the different setbacks Iowa has had at the position the last few seasons? Can Iowa continue to just plug new faces in there and come up with another 1,000 yard rusher?
"They'll just plug somebody in there, they always seem to do. This year I kind of wonder if it's going to look a little bit more like that Orange Bowl team where you had Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher get 600 to 900 yards each and there were more split duties. I think one of the true freshmen will probably get a shot, Damon Bullock will probably get shot, De'Andre Johnson is probably maybe the sleeper in that group as a guy that could maybe surprise people and take the job. I think people are looking past Johnson, but he may be the most 'ready' guy right now physically and ability wise. I think Barkley Hill might be the best suited out of the two freshmen because he ran an offense in high school that's more closely aligned with what Iowa does."
What about the lines? That's always been the strength for Iowa, but they've lost a lot of good people the last two seasons. Where are the lines at right now for Iowa?
"That's the whole key to the season and that's how well will these lines play? If they play well, Iowa football has been really good. You saw it in 2009 on that Orange Bowl team. The offensive line is not that big of a concern, even though there are a lot of starters returning. Guys have gotten their feet wet and you've got a good core player in James Ferentz and I think Brian Ferentz is going to do a terrific job with the offensive line. He's well-schooled, he grew up playing offensive line and he knows how to play offensive line in the Big Ten. They'll have two new tackles stepping in though.
"The defensive line is the biggest question. There's just no way around it. Last year they just did not perform well, and you look at the depth chart its redshirt freshman, redshirt freshman, seniors that don't have a ton of experience - it's a real mixed bag. They're going to have to have some young guys step up their roles and step in and be able to play. There's going to be a bigger rotation up front. In the Ferentz era if the defensive line is good, they usually have a good team. They're going to have to develop and they're going to have to develop quickly. The good news is they'll have some games in September where they should be able to develop and they're going to have to win football games in October and November."
To satisfy Iowa fans, what type of season from a win-loss perspective does this have to be?
"I think the changes have bought them a little time from being on a real 'hot seat' situation. There's no question that two years ago was a disappointment just based on the fact they were coming off an Orange Bowl and they had a lot of guys coming back and you end up in the Insight Bowl. They didn't play well in that season at all. Last year you kind of expected maybe a little bit of a step back, but Iowa just has not won those close games on a regular basis and they haven't performed well on the road.
"This year most realistic people are saying 7-5, but when you look at the start of the schedule with Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Central Michigan, you would think they would be 4-0. Then they have Minnesota in Iowa City and they'll be favored there, so they could be 5-0 out of the gate going to Michigan State in the middle of October, then you find out how good the team is."