An Early Look at Iowa vs. Tennessee Tech - 2011

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Tennessee Tech

The Game

Event: Iowa vs. Tennessee Tech
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
When: September 3, 2011


The Basics

Location: Cookeville, TN
Head Coach: Watson Brown
Mascot: Golden Eagles
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference (FCS)
2010 Record: 5-6 (4-4)


The Offense

Returning Starters: 11 (TTU lists 13 starters on offense)
Key Players: RB Jocques Crawford, QB Tre Lamb, WR Tim Benford
Key Losses: QB Cass Barnes, WR Henry Sailes

The Golden Eagles employ a run-first spread offense. The two quarterbacks used last year, Tre Lamb and Cass Barnes, accounted for roughly 1/3 of all rushes, but the main ball carrier was tailback Jocques Crawford. Crawford ran for 625 yards on 118 carries and had 9 TDs. The other main tailback was Dontey Gay who started the first 9 games of the year before going down with an ankle injury. Gay had 63 carries for 429 yards.

Lamb is the likely starting QB this year. He went 72/136 for 974 yards with 11 TDs and 4 INTs. He did miss 3 games at the end of the year with a knee injury, but should be fine to go in September. In the spring scrimmage, he was 4/4 for 44 yards. Lamb's primary target last year was Tim Benford. Benford had 50 catches for 812 yards and 10 TDs. He was voted as First-Team All-OVC. Beyond Benford, the QBs spread the ball out pretty evenly. The next 5 highest in receptions had 18, 16, 13, 11, and 11 catches.

With essentially the entire offense returning, the unit should be more productive in 2011. The 2010 version was pretty mediocre averaging 24 points and 315 yards per game.

The Defense

Returning Starters: 8
Key Players: FS Marty Jones, LB Kelechi Ordu, LB Jake McIntosh, LB Dwight Evan
Key Losses: DT Justin Hilliard, S Dustin Dillehay, CB Corbin Miles

Like the offense, the Golden Eagle D returns the majority of their starters. From what I can tell, TTU's base is a 3-3-5 (though they list the Bandit as an OLB but the position is usually used in the stack as more of a SS/LB hybrid). Their strength last year was against the pass allowing less than 200 yards through the air per game. The secondary was led by FS Marty Jones. Jones was second on the team in tackles with 87. He led the team with 4 interceptions and returned one for a TD. The other star of the secondary is CB Richmon Tooley. He was TTU's "lockdown" corner and had 8 pass break ups. He also had 3 INTs and 54 tackles.

The 3 linebackers plus the Bandit are all returning. Kelechi Ordu at MLB was the main run-stopper last year leading the team with 90 tackles. OLB Dwight Evans was also good against the run and consistently made plays in the backfield. He had 10.5 TFLs last year and was 6th on the team in tackles.

Upfront the Golden Eagles lost their best defensive lineman in Justin Hilliard. However, unlike Iowa they like to rotate guys on the line frequently (apparently they never leave a D-linemen in for more than 6 plays in a row), so there is some spread out experience. They have a couple of solid pass rushers returning in DE Jamere Houge and Marcus Edwards. The two combined for 10 of the team's 20 sacks.

The Special Teams

Returning Starters: 2
Key Players: PK Matthew Barker, P Nick Campbell
Key Losses: KR/PR Henry Sailes

With everyone else TTU is returning, there is no surprise here as both kickers will be back. They have a pretty decent punter who averaged just under 40 a kick last year and had 13 of 39 downed inside the 20 and 8 over 50 yards.

The place kicker also returns, but is coming off a shaky end to last season. Matthew Baker missed 4 of his last 5 FG attempts and finished the year 9/15. Barker also handled kickoffs and had a decent leg. He averaged 62.7 yards and had 7 touchbacks on 51 kickoffs.

The Golden Eagles will need to find some new blood at both returner spots though. Henry Sailes was the primary returner of both punts and kick offs. CB Mauricio Wallace is the likely replacement for Sailes. Wallace with the number 2 kick returner last year and had 7 returns for 115 yards.

Initial Thoughts

Though TTU was a middle of the pack FCS team last year, they likely won't be a complete push over. They will be the most veteran team Iowa plays this year with 20 returning starters. Hawkeye fans don't need to look far in the past to see what a FCS school with a lot of experience can do in Kinnick Stadium.

The Golden Eagles faced two FBS schools last year and lost 3-44 and 7-62. (To be fair though, those games were against Arkansas and TCU, two of the top teams in the country last year). Against other FCS schools they went 5-4, but were probably better than their record. At one point towards the end of the season they had 8 starters sidelined due to injury.

Still, this probably won't be a scare like '09 UNI. Tennessee Tech looks similar to Michigan the past couple of years with a run-first spread offense and a 3-3-5 defense. They however, do not have Denard Robinson. Iowa should have its biggest advantage in the trenches and be able to run the ball effectively. On the flip side, though the Hawkeyes have struggled with running QBs in the past, TTU doesn't have any big threat there. This should be the easiest game on the schedule and the backups should see plenty of time be the fourth quarter, but I think it will be an experienced enough team to at least put up a little fight.
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