Hope and concern: Iowa

The Hope and Concern series marches on with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Biggest reason for hope: Returning players who stepped up in Insight Bowl

When a team loses a group of seniors like Iowa does, you want to see evidence of who will carry the torch. Several Hawkeyes underclassmen provided the proof Dec. 28 against Missouri. Running back Marcus Coker rushed for an Iowa bowl record 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. By all accounts, Coker has built on his bowl performance and continued to develop throughout the winter and spring. Sophomore defensive back Micah Hyde had the decisive 72-yard interception return for a touchdown against Missouri and looks ready to take over Tyler Sash's defensive playmaker role. Other returning players like linebacker James Morris also stepped up in the bowl game, and an offensive line that returns three starters held an edge at the line of scrimmage.

Biggest reason for concern: Depth in the defensive front seven

Iowa's defense doesn't feature a ton of blitzing or additional defensive backs on the field, even against the spread. Coordinator Norm Parker relies on his front four to generate consistent pressure, and his linebackers to fill gaps and make tackles. The Hawkeyes exit the spring feeling pretty good about three down linemen -- Mike Daniels, Broderick Binns and Lebron Daniel -- and Tyler Nielsen and Morris will occupy two of the starting linebacker spots. But who fills the gaps elsewhere? And more important, what will Iowa do if injuries crop up to returning players with experience. It's tough to reload when you lose three defensive linemen to the NFL draft, and Iowa's lack of depth at linebacker hurt the defense at times last season.

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