Stats file: Details on projected Iowa football starters against Northern Iowa
It wasn't always shiny, but last week's 13-3 Iowa victory over Iowa State is a thing of beauty when it contributes to a spotless 2-0 start to the 2018 football season.
Fans are hoping for a scoring breakthrough in the first half this week against FCS opponent Northern Iowa — the Hawkeyes have six total first-half points this year. But the Panthers have made Iowa sweat of late, with the teams' last three meetings decided by a total of 20 points.
Here's a little more about the expected starters for the Hawkeyes heading into Saturday's 6:30 p.m. contest:
Quarterback: Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — Hawkeye fans and coaches alike are hoping the talented junior can have a breakout performance this week. The two-game numbers (27-for-51, 274 yards, TD, INT) are tepid.
Running back: Toren Young (5-11, 221, Soph.) — Supplanted by Ivory Kelly-Martin in fall camp, expect Young to get another chance to prove his co-No. 1 worth this week. He had a career-high 21 attempts last week against Iowa State.
Fullback: Brady Ross (6-0, 245, Jr.) — During what was the game-clinching touchdown drive, Ross converted on a big third-down carry when it felt like 6-3 could have been the final score.
Tight end: Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.) — Most everybody on offense was quiet last week, but Fant still has eight touchdowns in his past nine Kinnick Stadium games in spite of that.
Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.) — That he leads the Hawkeyes with 10 receptions and 97 yards through two games tells you all you need to know about the passing offense's performance so far.
Split end: Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.) — Where's Brandon Smith? There's Brandon Smith, catching a career-long 30-yard reception in the fourth quarter that finally helped Iowa fans exhale last week.
Wide receiver: Nick Easley (5-11, 205, Sr.) — If the Iowa offense gets a jump-start this week, look to Easley, who was the leading Iowa receiver nine times in 2017.
Left tackle: Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320, Soph.) — He's missed the opener because of the suspension, but if Jackson plays, he starts. Saturday will mark 14 games played, and 14 games atop the depth chart.
Left guard: Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) — He said this week in an interview that the line is pleased with its blocking efforts so far. Maybe the rushing numbers will further support that sentiment this week.
Center: Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — Reviews have been fine for Render at center so far. He moved to the position full-time this season.
Right guard: Cole Banwart (6-4, 296, Soph.) — Part of a line that has averaged 3.7 yards per carry and just under 160 yards per game on the ground.
Right tackle: Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320, Soph.) — Wirfs is quietly a veteran on an abnormally young offensive line. Wirfs was the first Kirk Ferentz-era player to start at offensive tackle as a true freshman.
Left end: Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.) — One of six Hawkeyes to collect a sack in the season's first two games is Nelson. Just two have multiple sacks (more on that later).
Left tackle: Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — Still waiting for the first big statistical breakthrough, Brincks has three tackles on the season. The defensive line as a whole was stellar against Iowa State running back David Montgomery, though.
Right tackle: Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.) — Got on the sack board as well last week, and this Nelson's starting streak should reach 10 this week.
Right end: Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.) — Hesse and his superstar protege (A.J. Epenesa) are the two multiple sack-earners so far in 2018. Hesse will make his 26th straight start.
Outside linebacker: Nick Niemann (6-4, 232, Soph.) — Another week, another career high in tackles. The number was seven this time, and that total included a sack.
Middle linebacker: Jack Hockaday (6-1, 235, Sr.) — Coaches saw areas of improvement for Hockaday in his first career start, but a personal-best eight tackles left him squarely at his spot in the depth chart after earning the spot against the Cyclones.
Weak-side linebacker: Djimon Colbert (6-1, 234, Fr.) — The first-year player was moved from defensive back to the linebacker spot in spring practice, and the early returns have been stupendous.
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Left cornerback: Matt Hankins (6-1, 185, Soph.) — Another career-high tackling day for a member of the defensive. Hankins had eight last week.
Strong safety: Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.) — He's currently second on the team in tackles with 12. Look for the secondary to smell out an interception or two this weekend with Northern Iowa's quarterback situation shaky.
Free safety: Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.) — Gervase is finding his groove now in the secondary, with a ninth straight start spanning the past two seasons in the offing this weekend.
Right cornerback: Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199, Jr.) — He did his part on the tackling front, too, recording a half-dozen (three solo) against Iowa State last weekend.
Kicker: Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.) — A 50-yard miss in the fourth quarter is forgivable. A 38-yard hook after one of Iowa State's gift-wrapped shank punts last week was less so.
Punter: Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.) — A 42.3-yard average on four boots last week made Rastetter look like Ray Guy when compared with Corey Dunn of the Cyclones last week.
Kickoff and punt returns: Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175, Soph.) — That 45-yard catch in the second half was the longest play for either team last week in an offensively challenged environment.
NORTHERN IOWA PROJECTED STARTERS
Quarterback: Eli Dunne (6-5, 238, Sr.)
Running back: Marcus Weymiller (5-10, 204, Sr.)
Wide receiver: Jalen Rima (6-0, 192, Jr.)
Wide receiver: Deion McShane (5-9, 155, Fr.)
Wide receiver: Jaylin James (6-3, 202, Jr.)
Tight end: Elias Nissen (6-4, 243, Sr.) OR Briley Moore (6-3, 242, Jr.)
Left tackle: Cal Twait (6-5, 305, Sr.)
Left guard: Jackson Scott-Brown (6-4, 312, Jr.)
Center: Ezra Szczyrbak (6-4, 299, Sr.)
Right guard: Nick Ellis (6-4, 309, Soph.)
Right tackle: Spencer Brown (6-8, 290, Soph.)
Defensive end: Seth Thomas (6-5, 262, Jr.)
Defensive end: Rickey Neal Jr. (6-1, 241, Sr.)
Nose tackle: Hezekiah Applegate (6-2, 285, Jr.)
Defensive tackle: Bryce Douglas (6-0, 304, Sr.)
Outside linebacker: Blake Thomas (6-1, 224, Sr.)
Middle linebacker: Duncan Ferch (6-1, 234, Sr.)
Middle linebacker: Chris Kolarevic (6-0, 223, Fr.)
Safety: Austin Evans (6-0, 189, Soph.)
Safety: Korby Sander (6-0, 212, Soph.)
Cornerback: Roosevelt Lawrence (6-0, 170, Jr.)
Cornerback: Xavior Williams (5-11, 175, Soph.)
Kicker: Austin Errthum (5-10, 180, Sr.) OR Sam Drysdale (6-4, 180, Jr.)
Punter: Michael Kuntz (5-11, 188, Sr.)
Kick returner: Xavior Williams
Punt returner: Jalen Rima