Hawkeye Impact Players

Hawkeye Impact Players
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As the Iowa Hawkeyes look to return to the top of the Big Ten West, there are four impact players who have the ability to take this team to the top of the division. These four have shown previously how they can change the course of the game in just one or two plays. That, combined with their playing experience, will play a huge factor in this football team achieving their potential. Here are the Hawkeye impact players for the 2021 season.

Tyler Goodson – Running Back, Jr. 

The Hawkeyes typically run an effective pro-style offense and a lot of it is built around the run game. This traditional look allows for an above average amount of touches for the running back and great opportunities in the play-action. Last year, Iowa added the wildcat to their playbook. Led by Tyler Goodson, this new look has made the offense even more dynamic.

The junior out of North Gwinnett High School in Georgia has been dominant since he took over in the backfield in 2019. Last season, Goodson saw 143 touches and about 800 yards in just eight games. To put that in perspective, Georgia’s leading rusher, Zamir White had 144 carries and about 800 yards. Georgia played 10 games. Iowa ran the ball at a very effective clip last season and Goodson is back for more.

Goodson was also responsible for the team’s longest play of the season. He secured the Heartland Trophy with an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin on a snowy night in Kinnick Stadium. On that run alone, he showed his elusiveness, speed, and ability to break tackles on the way to the end zone. With this kind of talent, the Hawks are capable of winning those rock-fight type of games on their way to Indianapolis.

Tyler Linderbaum – Center, Jr. 

The Iowa offense is designed around the Hawkeye linemen. These guys are built within the walls of the Iowa Football facilities, and dominate the line year-in and year-out. This year, the guy to watch is Tyler Linderbaum. Pro Football Focus has him as the third best college football player in the country heading into this season, and that’s not out of nowhere. Last year, the Iowa offensive line ranked sixth in the nation in power success rate, converting on nearly 90% of short-yardage 3rd and 4th down plays. That dominance is led by Linderbaum at center. Iowa likes to go to the quarterback sneak and quick off-center dive plays in those situations. The ability to move bodies up the middle is generated, in large part, by the center. 

Linderbaum also has an incredible knowledge of the game and the playbook. He can make adjustments at the line and during the play. A lot of good lineman can block really well, but what makes a lineman great is his ability to anticipate and react in real time. Linderbaum is also very highly regarded as a teammate. His fellow Hawkeyes have said numerous times that he is a true team player and humble despite all of his accolades. In addition to his ability to pancake a defender, this is the kind of guy every team wants to have at center.

Tory Taylor – Punter, So.

Punting is winning. Hawkeye fans know that to be a very real part of the winning formula in Iowa City. In his second year starting, Tory Taylor is the man for the job. Taylor will be a 24-year-old sophomore for Iowa this season, and he comes from the talented line of Australian football punters. In his freshman year, he punted 40 times with an average of 44 yards per kick. Of those punts, 18 of them pinned the opponent inside the 20 yard line, that’s second best in the Big Ten. When the game turns into a battle for field position, the punt team is often the most vital ingredient for success. Having a guy with a leg that can flip the field is a huge advantage for the Hawkeyes. 

Being a native Australian, Taylor uses the Aussie punting technique that generates an end-over-end rotation on the ball. This spin can lead to generous bounces in favor of Iowa. His directional kicking is also incredibly effective. Taylor does an excellent job of using the sidelines to his advantage to pin opponents deep in their own territory. Iowa fans witnessed this last season, and it was only the beginning of what looks to be a skilled punt team.

Matt Hankins – Cornerback, Sr.

Matt Hankins will be the leader in one of Kirk Ferentz’s most experienced secondary groups in years. The 5th year senior will enter 2021 as a starter in at least one game for his fourth consecutive year. His first start was back in 2017 in a win against Nebraska. He has played a pivotal role on the Iowa defense ever since. Hankins recorded one interception last season and made 41 tackles with five pass breakups. He’ll play in his 40th game for the Hawks on September 4th, and is looking to add another 14 before it’s all said and done. 

There’s a very real sense of consistency within the Hawkeye defensive backfield this season. Much of it is due to the experience each of these guys have, especially Hankins. Iowa hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 24 points since their 31-28 victory against Nebraska in 2018. That leads the FBS with a 21-game streak of giving up 24 or less. In addition, all five of Iowa’s losses in the last two years have been for a combined total of 19 points. That’s an average loss margin of only 3.8 points per game – just incredible. The Iowa Hawkeyes have quite literally been a few plays away from Playoff conversations in each of the last two seasons. Much of this success is credited to the defense. They always manage to keep Iowa comfortably within reach of victory no matter the opponent. Guys like Matt Hankins know what it takes to maintain this high level of defensive pressure. It’s a major reason why he will be one of the Hawkeye impact players this season.

2021 Outlook

Iowa opens against two tough opponents in Indiana and Iowa State. Both of which are anticipated to be impactful games in for the Big Ten conference and the national landscape. Starting the year with this kind of challenge is not an easy task. However, the Hawks are returning seven guys on each side of the ball. This experience will play a big role in how Iowa performs this season. These four Hawkeyes can change the course of a game in one play. Iowa fans know Goodson,  Linderbaum, Taylor, and Hankins, but soon the nation will witness the difference making capability of these Hawkeye impact players.

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