Hawkeyes eager for offensive influx
By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
The Associated Press
IOWA CITY — New Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara wants complete command of the offense, right down to how the Hawkeyes break a huddle.
“I definitely want to start every play with a good break,” he said. “If we’re not in sync, it looks a little sloppy. If we have a clean break, it just gets the play started off right.”
McNamara has yet to take a snap for the No. 25 Hawkeyes in a game, but the Michigan transfer is the key to reviving one of the nation’s worst offenses. Iowa won eight games despite being 129th in total offense, 123rd in rushing and 122nd in passing and scoring.
McNamara takes over for three-year starter Spencer Petras, who completed just 55.9% of his passes last season with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I’ve been here seven months now, and it’s been the best seven months of my life,” said McNamara, Michigan’s starter in 2021. “I’m enjoying my time here, building my relationships with these dudes. Everyone here has been so welcoming to me. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of things, I’m more grateful I’m here.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, more than anybody, is counting on McNamara to produce. The son of head coach Kirk Ferentz took a pay cut from $900,000 to $850,000 and his two-year rollover was put on hold as part of a contract amendment in February.
If Iowa wins seven games and increases its scoring average to 25 points — points by the defense and special teams included — he’ll be paid a lump sum of $112,500, have his salary raised to $925,000 and go back to having a two-year rolling contract.
McNamara is nursing a soft-tissue injury from a recent scrimmage, but he has been cleared to play in Saturday’s opener.
Former Southeast Valley standouts Kyler Fisher and Aaron Graves are both expected to play pivotal roles in the Hawkeye defense this season. Fisher, a senior, is projected to be a starting Leo/Cash linebacker. Graves, a sophomore, will again be in the defensive line rotation.
Logan Jones had two difficult tasks last season — moving from defensive line to center, and replacing All-American and NFL first-round draft pick Tyler Linderbaum. Jones admitted he struggled with everything, from snaps to reading defenses. He said he’s become more comfortable with the position.
“Our defense throws a lot of things at us, which is pretty good,” Jones said. “You never know what a team is going to throw at us. Sometimes a team is going to throw a certain front at us that I don’t know, and then we’ll have to make adjustments, learn from that. But I’ve learned a lot from last year to this year. I’m not going to be perfect, but I know a lot more.”
TIGHT END U
Erick All, another Michigan transfer, joins Luke Lachey at tight end, a perennial position of strength for the Hawkeyes.
Lachey was listed No. 1 on the depth chart after catching 28 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. He spent the past two seasons backing up Sam LaPorta, a second-round NFL draft pick.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Lachey said. “I think my game is so much better now than what it was.”
The biggest departure on defense was Butkus Award-winning linebacker Jack Campbell, who was the Associated Press Big Ten defensive player of the year and a consensus All-American.
Nick Jackson, a graduate transfer from Virginia, led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 10.4 tackles per game and joins a deep group of linebackers that include seniors Jay Higgins and Kyler Fisher.
“He’s learning everything,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s like drinking through a fire hose a little bit, but he is a pretty cerebral guy and he is picking it up fast.”
Iowa avoids Michigan and Ohio State but plays at Penn State in one of its crossover games with East Division teams. The Hawkeyes visit Wisconsin and Nebraska, and the annual CyHawk game against Iowa State is on the road.
The Hawkeyes open on Saturday at home against Utah State.