Hawkeyes Gameday: 5 storylines for Iowa-Illinois State
BEATHARD ERA IS HERE: C.J. Beathard will be rolled out Saturday as Iowa's starting quarterback. Finally. And Iowa's starting cornerbacks, Greg Mabin and Desmond King, give their seal of approval.
"He's been killing it in camp," Mabin said. "He's been putting some passes in there that have been causing Desmond and me some troubles."
Beathard's ready for showtime.
"We're excited to show what we can do," Beathard said. "There are plays out there to be had. We have to make them."
DEFENDING THE EDGE: Teams exposed Iowa on the edge last season, getting outside and gaining big yardage. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said that has been addressed in practice. Saturday will be a real test. Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson can turn the corner with his legs. He ran for 1,029 yards last season. Running back Marshaun Coprich can get there, too, rushing for 2,274 yards last season. We'll see how Iowa's reshuffled linebackers respond to the challenge.
RUNNING DOWNHILL: Iowa's best rushing teams averaged in the neighborhood of five yards a carry. Last season's team averaged 4.1. And just two backs, Mark Weisman (134 yards against Illinois) and Akrum Wadley (106 yards against Northwestern), rushed for three figures in a regular-season game last season. LeShun Daniels looks to get most of the workload Saturday. Illinois State's two defensive tackles, Dalton Keene and Adam Conley, have started four games combined. But linebackers Alex Donnelly and Pat Meehan have started 54 games collectively.
THE POINT OF ATTACK: Iowa's new offensive tackles, Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, will make their first career starts Saturday. Myers will be challenged by defensive end David Perkins, a senior returning starter and former Ohio State player. Another senior returning starter, Teddy Corwin, will be lined up against Boettger.
"They're young guys, and they'll make mistakes just like everyone on the field," Beathard said. "But they'll continue to get better and better."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Iowa's best seasons under Kirk Ferentz included strong special teams play. The Hawkeyes' special teams play was poor last season. That cost Iowa the Nebraska game. The lingering question: Will this be an area of improvement this season?
"We're going to find out," Ferentz said. "I'm hopeful. I think we've practiced better and the players are aware that we've got to play better and we want to play better."