By Dan Kelley on July 16, 2014
The Iowa Hawkeyes are something of a dark horse pick to win the Big Ten in 2014, much to the delight of Iowa football fans. The Hawkeyes may have the talent to contend in the Big Ten this season, but they will need a handful of players to step up in a big way. Here are five Iowa football players who could do just that and help lead the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten title.
After several years of playing backup to James Morris, Quinton Alston should finally have his chance to lead the defense in 2014. Alston has played mostly on special teams to this point, but, as a redshirt senior, he does provide the Hawkeyes with a defensive signal caller who knows the playbook inside-and-out.
Sean Draper has been a semi-regular member of the rotation at cornerback for the past two seasons. As a junior this year, he should have an opportunity to get on the field quite a bit more and become a leader for the defense. He has been up-and-down to this point, but he is now one of Iowa's more experienced corners and he will be asked to play like the veteran he is.
Now that C.J. Fiedorowicz has left Iowa and gone on to the NFL, the Hawkeyes will need someone to step up at tight end. Fortunately, there is a clear favorite for that role in Ray Hamilton. Hamilton has mostly been utilized as a blocker to this point, making only eight catches for 95 yards last year. But he is a capable receiver and he should finally get an opportunity to make an impact down the field in 2014.
Jordan Lomax made the switch from corner to free safety last season and now he heads into 2014 as the apparent starter there. Lomax showed promise early on last year, but was slowed by an injury and missed four games. Now that he is healthy, he should be one of the keys to the success of Iowa's pass defense.
Derrick Willies redshirted in his first season at Iowa in 2013, but enters this year with quite a bit of buzz after a strong spring. Willies not only has excellent size for a receiver, standing 6-foot-4, he is also a former high school track champion. In the spring game, Willies made seven receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.
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