Aug. 9, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Senior quarterback James Vandenberg holds the key to the success for the University of Iowa football team in 2012. That's the message BTN personalities Howard Griffith and Gerry DiNardo preached during the opening segment of the Big Ten Football Preview Tour on Thursday night.
"This is going to be a team that is going to win as long as James Vandenberg is playing well," said Griffith during his final observations of the Hawkeyes. "The offensive line must do their job, but it all starts with Vandenberg."
Griffith calls freshman Ruben Lile as a newcomer to watch, saying he can `flat out run' and `will be a name that Iowa fans are going to love in the future.' DiNardo said fans should look for freshman running back Barkley Hill, calling him a `newcomer that will play.'
Following an offseason that saw the first coordinator movement in the Kirk Ferentz era with Greg Davis replacing Ken O'Keefe as offensive coordinator and Phil Parker taking over for Norm Parker at the helm of the Hawkeye defense, the BTN crew liked the staff shake-ups.
"It's a perfect time for Greg Davis to come to Iowa," said DiNardo. "He brought some new concepts in the passing game at a time when they may not have a dominant running back."
Despite not having an established featured back, Griffith was impressed with what he saw out of sophomore Damon Bullock this spring.
"Bullock is going to get the shot, the first go at it," said Griffith. "He is a proven player right now. He really showed us something when we had the opportunity to see him in the spring."
Both personalities came away impressed with the play of true freshman running back Barkley Hill.
"He really stood out and had some things that can help and show this team from an offensive running back position that he can lead," said DiNardo.
"Of the freshmen, Hill looked the best," said Griffith. "He had a better feel for the cuts."
With Vandenberg returning under center, the BTN crew believes the receiving corps will improve during the course of fall camp.
"There are a couple of reasons why the receiving corps are going to come along," said DiNardo. "One, Vandenberg is a veteran quarterback. Two, that secondary they are going against is a really good secondary, and it gets competitive in camp. That will help you bring along your receivers."
The defensive back seven will be a strength of the Hawkeye defense. Senior Micah Hyde and junior B.J. Lowery are strong cover corners, while junior Tanner Miller and hard-hitting sophomore Nico Law serve as safeties.
"I could be going out on a limb, but this secondary looks like the best secondary I've seen since we've covered them (Iowa) as a network," said Griffith. "They're good enough in the back half that they can match up with the teams in the Big Ten."
Host Dave Revsine recalled a young Mike Daniels when talking about the youthful Iowa defensive line.
"Just because they're unfamiliar names, doesn't mean they are guys that can't step up," said Revsine.
"Having Carl Davis back is huge for them," said Griffith. "He is going to be a player that is going to be able to push the pocket. He has to be able to hold his ground inside. You talk about the stout tackles that Iowa is famous for, he now has to become one of those as a young player."
Iowa opens the 2012 season in Chicago, facing Northern Illinois at Soldier Field beginning at 2:30 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ESPNU.