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Harty: 10 players on the verge of a breakout season

[ 0 ] August 19, 2012 |

Here is a different kind of top 10 list using members of the 2012 Iowa football team. To make this list, a player could not have started more than three games as a Hawkeye.

In other words, you won’t find players like James Vandenberg, Micah Hyde, James Ferentz, Mike Meyer or Steve Bigach on the list.

What you’ll find instead are mostly unproven players who are in positions to have prominent roles this fall. Starting three games was used as the cutoff because that allowed sophomore left tackle Brandon Scherff to be on the list.

Scherff might be the most talented player on the list, but the rankings are based on positions of need more than anything else. That’s why it includes three young defensive linemen, but only one offensive lineman. Senior defensive linemen Joe Gagilone also could have made the list because there is pressure on him to perform, too.

The list was updated after freshman running back Barkley Hill suffered an apparent knee injury near the end of the open practice Saturday. Hill’s status was uncertain as of Sunday afternoon, but he was carted off the field Saturday and wasn’t putting any weight on his left knee.

1. Carl Davis, soph., defensive tackle: The Detroit native was a disruptive force at times during the open practice Saturday and that’s what the team so desperately needs Davis to be this season. That’s also why Davis heads the list. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 310 pounds, Davis already casts an imposing figure. He now needs to match his size with some results on the field. He appeared in six games last season as a redshirt freshman and assisted on two tackles.

The Iowa defensive line is considered a weak spot, but that could change if Davis excels in the trenches.

2. Connor Kornbrath, fr., punter: One of the best ways to compensate for a questionable defense is to have somebody shine as a punter. That puts a lot of pressure on anybody, let alone a true freshman like Kornbrath, but it’s time for the West Virginia native to grow up in a hurry.

Kornbrath appears to have won the punting job, considering he did virtually all the punting during the open scrimmage Saturday. The second spot on the list would’ve gone to the punter no matter who was starting. Most of Kornbrath’s punts Saturday had decent hang time and distance, but he did get off a few duds. Last year’s starting punter, Eric Guthrie, did his job largely by avoiding too many duds.

3. Damon Bullock, soph., running back: The offense will have a new look under first-year coordinator Greg Davis, but the desire and the need to run the football won’t change as long as Kirk Ferentz is running the show. And besides, there isn’t enough speed at the receiver positions for Iowa to put less emphasis on the run.

Bullock will be expected to pound between the tackles in true Iowa running back fashion, but where you’ll probably see a change is him catching more passes than previous Iowa running backs. That’ll be partly because of Davis’ influence but also because of Bullock’s ability to catch.

4. Greg Garmon, fr., running back: The Erie, Pa., native moved up a few spots on the list in the wake of Hill’s apparent knee injury. Garmon is one of the most heralded running back recruits to sign with Iowa and his talent stood out during the open practice.

Garmon is likely to struggle with some of the less-enjoyable responsibilities of a running back, namely pass blocking, so he’ll have to compensate by hanging on to the football and by making big plays. Look for Davis to find ways to get Garmon the ball in space where Garmon is most comfortable and most effective.

5. Brandon Scherff, soph., left tackle: The Denison native arguably has the most upside of any player on the list and perhaps of any player on the team. Iowa’s last two starting left tackles — Riley Reiff and Bryan Bulaga — made first-team all-Big Ten and were taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

The 6-5, 310-pound Scherff looks the part physically, and his performance in the weight room is the stuff of legends.

But he’s still mostly untested at this level, especially at left tackle as the protector of quarterback James Vandenberg’s blindside. Scherff started three games at left guard last season.

6. Louis Trinca-Pasat, soph., defensive tackle: As a third-year sophomore, Trinca-Pasat can no longer be considered young. He now has to perform like a veteran by at least holding his own in the trenches. Kirk Ferentz has mentioned Trinca-Pasat perhaps more than any other player when asked who’s improved the most during the offseason.

7. Darian Cooper, fr., defensive tackle: The hope is that by being redshirted last season Cooper would need less time to adjust this season. He played at perennial power DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland and came to Iowa as a highly respected recruit.

The defense would receive a huge boost if Cooper develops into a consistent contributor.

8. Don Shumpert, jr., receiver: He probably is Iowa’s fastest receiver, which isn’t saying much, but at least he can stretch a defense. It’s hard to judge his hands at this point because Shumpert has no catches in college.

9. Nico Law, soph., strong safety: His popularity on the Internet message boards is incredible given his lack of experience. Iowa will have a gem if Law is half as good as advertised.

10. B.J. Lowery, jr., cornerback: Opposing quarterbacks likely will stay away from the more experienced Micah Hyde at the other cornerback position, so that should give plenty of opportunities for Lowery to make plays.

Near misses: Anthony Hitchens, LB; Joe Gaglione, DL; Brett Van Sloten, OL; Austin Blythe, OL; Jake Rudock, QB; Tom Donatell, DB.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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