Iowa football: Potential break out stars on offense

iowa football

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz hopes that a couple of players will have a break out year for his offense.

Every year, it seems like some player that was unknown at the start of the season, bursts onto the scene and surprises everyone with how well they play. Last season for the Iowa football team, it was Jordan Canzeri who started off third on the depth chart at the running back position. Then in the middle of the season, he ended up being a co-starter, highlighted when he ran for 165 yards against Purdue.

This year there are many choices for potential break out stars on this Iowa offense. Iowa has a wealth of wide receivers after only losing one meaningful contributor from last season and adding a host of redshirt freshmen. Iowa also has a ton of depth at running back, but which of the backups will make his name heard this season? Iowa is known for churning out productive tight ends year after year, but which one will stand out from the rest? I have chosen three players out of all the options that Iowa has that I believe will stand out this season.

Tight End: Ray Hamilton (#82, Senior, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Strongsville (OH) HS)

Ok so this isn’t much of a reach. Hamilton is listed at starter for tight end right now for the Hawkeyes. He has also started three games for the Hawks at tight end in his career, all coming last season. He is a very good player, but he has been playing behind fan favorite in C.J. Fiedorowicz. Fiedorowicz was lauded as a freak athlete with his size and speed. He also spurned Illinois to come to Iowa during the recruitment process. Because of this, all the attention was focused on Fiedorowicz, so no one noticed that one year after Fiedorowicz came to Iowa, four star tight end Ray Hamilton, who had an offer from Ohio State, committed to the Hawkeyes.

Hamilton avoided a redshirt and has been a back-up the majority of his career. Now that Fiedorowicz has departed, Hamilton gets his chance to shine. Hamilton has size and deceptive speed. As a primary backup last season, Hamilton was known for his blocking and would come on when Iowa needed to get the running game going.

Hamilton hasn’t shown much as a receiver as he only has 11 receptions in his career, with nine last season. He has been a tight end under Kirk Ferentz so it is safe to say that Hamilton will be involved in the passing game as a safety valve for quarterback Jake Rudock. Iowa does have a few primary receiving tight ends in Jake Duzy and Henry Krieger Coble, so Iowa won’t rely too heavily on Hamilton. But based on how well past Iowa tight ends have played their senior years, (think Tony Moeaki, Allen Reisner, Brandon Myers, Fiedorowicz) we can expect a tremendous season for the first full time starter.

Damond Powell (#22, Senior, 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Snow C.C. (UT))

I am just going to copy and paste what I wrote in my wide receiver preview:

If any wide receiver on this Hawkeye team is going to have a break out year, my money is on Powell. He isn’t starting right now, but based on how he played in the spring practices, he looked like a starter. He came to Iowa last year after leading the junior college ranks in yards per reception with 30 yards per catch. The coaches said to temper the expectations for Powell as he came to the team late and had to learn the whole playbook yet the fans awaited for him to explode on the scene.

Powell started off strong in the first four games averaging 51.5 yards per catch, albeit with only 4 receptions. One of those receptions was off a bubble screen against Minnesota where he took it 74 yards for a score. After that though, he was mostly treated as a decoy. As he didn’t know too much of the play book, he either ran screens or fly routes. Powell’s production fell off as a result of that and only averaged 10.6 yards per catch for the rest of the season.

The coaches said this summer that he knows the playbook now and is ready to go. He also has bulked up as the coaches said that he even though he was listed at 180 pounds, he was more around 160. He has blazing speed and it will show when he gets the ball in his hands. He isn’t listed like a starter but I expect that to change. He should lead the team in yards per reception and will have something like 30 receptions for around 500 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

I still feel that Powell is one to watch. He is arguably the fastest and most athletic wide receiver Iowa has ever had under Kirk Ferentz. While he may not be the most polished wide receiver on the roster, he has gotten the routes down that Iowa uses and he is ready to execute them. This is his last year at Iowa, time to show what he’s capable of.

LeShun Daniels Jr. (#29, Sophomore, 6 feet, 230 pounds, Harding HS (Warren, OH))

LeShun Daniels is behind three running backs with 754 carries between them, yet I still believe that Daniels is going to have a pretty big year. All 230 pounds of Daniels is ready for the Big Ten. He is fast for his size, has great instincts, and can truck people over.

Daniels may have the most natural ability out of all the running backs on this roster but he needs to get better with the little things. Last season Daniels had some issues with holding onto the football, hitting the hole hard, and in pass blocking. Daniels has probably improved immensely in these areas this past offseason and will hope to improve on his 36 carries. With his talents, he may even get the third most carries in a run heavy offense. He could possibly be Iowa’s goal line back and lead the team in touchdowns.

Even though most people are expecting Daniels to have to wait until Mark Weismann and Damon Bullock graduate, I think he may be too good for Ferentz to sit. Ferentz has shown in the past that he isn’t afraid to play young running backs if he feels they are ready. Daniels avoided a redshirt last season even with three capable players at the position, so he may shock people yet again with a great season.