Being teammates and best friends hasn't kept All--Big Ten linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge from going hard against each other--in the weight room, in the classroom and, inevitably, on the field. "We compete for tackles all the time," says Greenway. "It's not who gets the most. It's who gets to the ball fastest."
Greenway and Hodge give the Hawkeyes one of the best linebacking tandems in the country. With 4.5 speed, the 6'4", 234-pound Greenway excels in the open field. The 6'2", 234-pound Hodge is the harder hitter and also the stouter against the run. He led the team in tackles with 116, though Greenway was only three behind him. "I don't know who the best linebackers in the country are," says defensive coordinator Norm Parker, "but I'll play these two against anybody."
After winning 31 games and two Big Ten titles in three years, Iowa faces big expectations this fall--and duplicating 2004's 10--2 record will be a stiff challenge. Parker will be counting on Greenway and Hodge to take charge of a defensive unit hit hard by graduation. Gone are all four starting linemen, who were chiefly responsible for Iowa's ranking fifth in the country in rushing defense (92.5 yards per game). An inexperienced six- to eight-man rotation will have to get up to speed quickly. The Hawkeyes hope sophomore ends Kenny Iwebema (6'4", 246) and Bryan Mattison (6'3", 262) can provide an immediate pass-rush.
Although there's uncertainty on defense, the offense is a proven unit under the direction of playmaking quarterback Drew Tate, who completed passes to a school-record 19 players last season. This year, with a deep and talented front five and speedy senior back Marques Simmons's return from an ankle injury, the Hawkeyes expect to improve on a rushing attack that ranked second to last in the nation last year (72.6 yards per game). "If the seniors lead on this team the way we're capable of," says Greenway, "we're going to be pretty good." --M.B.
2004 RECORD 10--2 (7--1, T1 in Big Ten)
FINAL AP RANK 8 RETURNING STARTERS 13
KEY RETURNEES (2004 stats)
QB Drew Tate (Jr.) First-team All--Big Ten as a sophomore
LB Abdul Hodge (Sr.) Team's leading tackler the past two seasons
WR Clinton Solomon (Sr.) Four games with 100 or more receiving yards
LB Chad Greenway (Sr.) Of 9.4 tackles per game, 5.5 were solo
Wins without a loss--Iowa's record over the past three years when leading after three quarters. It's 27--1 following a halftime lead.
At 5'11" and 185 pounds, junior quarterback Drew Tate isn't nearly as big as his game. In his first year as a starter, Tate threw for 2,786 yards and 20 touchdowns and consistently found ways to win while Iowa struggled with an inexperienced offensive line and injuries to its first five running backs. His 56-yard bomb on the final play of the Capital One Bowl beat LSU 30--25.
Sept. 3 BALL STATE
10 at Iowa State
17 NORTHERN IOWA
24 at Ohio State
Oct. 1 ILLINOIS
8 at Purdue
Nov. 5 at Northwestern
12 at Wisconsin