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Seniors remain resilient

BY JON LINDER | NOVEMBER 20, 2009 7:21 AM

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The term “Best of the Kirk Ferentz era” is nothing new to Iowa’s senior class, which entered the program as the most highly touted recruits Ferentz had signed.

While the crown no longer rests quite so squarely on the collective head of this class, the members have an opportunity to leave a lasting mark on Iowa’s program in their final home game against Minnesota on Saturday.

“I have huge admiration [for these seniors],” Ferentz said. “There are only 17 of them, and I don’t know how many of them are on scholarship out of this group, but it’s a tough tour of duty … For our guys to make it to the finish line — that’s a heck of a deal.”

Rivals.com rated that class as No. 11 in the nation in 2005. Some of the players didn’t pan out for the Black and Gold, and they left the program for one reason or another.

Of the several who left because of academic problems, most never returned to Iowa City. Shonn Greene was the only one to return to the Hawkeyes after being ruled academically ineligible. He earned Big Ten Player of the Year and consensus All-American honors last year at running back before leaving for the NFL.

Two players left on their own terms, but at different stages of their careers. Ryan Bain was the first to leave Iowa, citing a lack of playing time after seeing the field as a true freshman and sophomore. Bain is now a reserve defensive lineman at Akron.

The other transfer was quarterback Jake Christensen, who left after losing his starting spot to Ricky Stanzi a year ago. Christensen came to Iowa as a blue-chip quarterback, but he struggled in his only full year as a starter in 2007.

Lacking in quantity, not in resiliency

Iowa’s 17 remaining seniors have taken a variety of routes to the final home game of their careers.
Dan Doering joined the Hawkeyes as one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the history of the program, but he has failed to meet fans’ expectations.

He played a substantial role on the 2007 team, but he was supplanted last year after suffering an early season injury. He started one game this fall for the Hawkeyes.

Fellow lineman Rafael Eubanks has experienced just about everything a person can while playing in the trenches. He jumped into a starting spot at center as a redshirt freshman and held that position for two years before Rob Bruggeman beat him out prior to last season.

Eubanks played guard at times in 2008 while battling injuries, but he has regained his starting center spot and performed well in his senior season this fall.

“I’ve been here through a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “To get to this point in my last year, it just feels really fulfilling as a player.”

Offensive tackle Kyle Calloway came to Iowa as the fourth-best offensive lineman in the class of 2005, according to most recruiting experts. The Belleville, Ill., product has since been a mainstay at right tackle for the Hawkeyes over the last three years.

A.J. Edds is the only senior starter not associated with the class of 2005. He stepped onto the field almost immediately as a true freshman in 2006, making his first start against Purdue. He has started 36-straight games at outside linebacker coming into Saturday’s game.

Fellow linebacker Pat Angerer has taken a different path, but brings plenty of experience of his own.
Since stepping into a starting role three weeks into the 2008 season, Angerer has made a difference for the Iowa defense. After nearly quitting football because of injuries early in his career, he has seen his NFL stock skyrocket in the last 13 months.

“Everybody on this team, every senior, has definitely battled through some hard times,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys I’m going to be running out there with.”

Angerer endured plenty of hardship, but some guys in this class just couldn’t buy a break when it came to staying healthy.

That role unfortunately fell to Tony Moeaki, Dace Richardson, and Trey Stross.

Moeaki has played brilliantly, albeit sparingly, despite numerous injuries throughout his career.

Stross emerged this year as a starter at receiver, but he was plagued by a slew of leg injuries in recent years.

Richardson, a high-school teammate of Moeaki, made an improbable return to glory this year before going down with a broken bone against Michigan State. The Wheaton, Ill., product is expected to return for the Hawkeyes’ bowl game.

Call them underachievers, but they rallied Hawkeye Nation

Despite the injuries, the mini-exodus from the program, and the accusations of underachieving through the years, the Class of 2005 has been instrumental in turning the program around in the past two years.

They came to Iowa following one of the most successful three-year stretches in Iowa history, with three straight 10-win seasons from 2002-2004.

In the three years that followed, Iowa failed to win a bowl game, and rumors started to swirl about Ferentz losing his job. The Class of 2005, which was hailed as the best class in Hawkeye history coming in, was labeled a bust.

Then Shonn Greene emerged last fall, as did Angerer and Calloway, to spark what now looks like Iowa’s legitimate re-emergence as a key player in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have collected nine wins for the second year in a row, and with two games left will likely earn the school’s first 10-win season in five years.

“I know there’s only been like five teams or so, somewhere around there, that have hit the 10-win margin,” Moeaki said on Tuesday. “So that’s pretty special that we have a chance to do that.”


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