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Point/counterpoint: Who has been Kirk Ferentz's best offensive player?

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Brad Banks (quarterback, 2001-02)

How is this even an argument?

Brad Banks is the greatest offensive player of the Kirk Ferentz era, and any statement that says otherwise is nothing short of blasphemy.

During the 2002 season, Banks — a senior in his second year as a Hawkeye — led Iowa to an 11-2 record, a share of the Big Ten title, and a trip to the Orange Bowl to play USC. He finished out his season No. 2 in Heisman voting behind the Trojans' Carson Palmer. Banks earned the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top signal-caller, received Associated Press college-football Player of the Year , and was named a second team All-American selection and the Big Ten's offensive MVP.

I shouldn't have to expand any more after this laundry list of accolades, but there are still other reasons than his full trophy case that point to why Banks is the best offensive player Ferentz has had the pleasure of coaching.

Marvin McNutt is the most explosive player Iowa has had since Shonn Greene, and he is likely the best receiver in the Big Ten, but that doesn't put him anywhere near Banks. McNutt wasn't even named a semifinalist for the award when the last round of contenders were released on Monday — although he should have been, in all fairness.

And though Greene is closer to Banks than McNutt in terms of his performance for Iowa, he still doesn't hold a candle to the quarterback. Greene did run for at least 100 yards in every game he appeared in for Iowa during the 2008 season, and he received the Doak Walker award for being the nation's top running back, but that doesn't matter.

Neither McNutt or Greene have the numbers, accolades, or wins to match that of Banks, which is why the current Arena Football League Barnstormer is the best offensive player under the tenure of Ferentz.

— by Ben Ross

Shonn Greene (running back, 2005-06, 2008)

It only took Shonn Greene one season as Iowa's starting running back to become one of the greatest Hawkeye runners of all time.

In 2008, Greene set single-season Iowa records in both rushing yards (1,850) and rushing touchdowns (20). He did not rush for fewer than 100 yards in any of the Hawkeyes' 13 games.

His efforts did not go unappreciated; the Hawkeye tailback claimed the Silver Football, given to the best player in the Big Ten by the Chicago Tribune, and the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. Greene became only the 10th Iowa player — and only the second in the Kirk Ferentz era — to win the Silver Football. He's the only Hawkeye ever to win the Doak Walker.

Iowa had sophomore Ricky Stanzi at the helm for most of the season, and the team needed a player such as Greene to carry the offense. And he did better than any player in recent memory. While Banks (Iowa's other Silver Football winner under Ferentz) had a future Pro Bowl tight end and one of the best Iowa offensive lines in history, Greene had fewer weapons to work with. An inexperienced quarterback and a young receiving corps were all bolstered by Greene.

Without Greene as the running back, the 2008 Hawkeyes likely would not have won the nine games they did.

After the Hawkeyes stumbled through a disappointing 6-6 season in 2007 and missed a bowl game, Greene was the catalyst for a 9-4 team and laid the groundwork for the magical 2009 Orange Bowl season.

Greene's dominant performances in the 2008 season makes him the greatest offensive player to wear the Black and Gold under Ferentz.

— by Ryan Murphy

Marvin McNutt (wide receiver, 2008-11)

How do you define "best offensive player"?

Is it a guy who put up better numbers than anyone before him? Is it a guy who passes the "eyeball test"? Or is it a guy who was truly one of a kind?

Marvin McNutt meets all three of those prerequisites.

His level of production can't be matched by any Hawkeye receiver in the program's history — and while no Hawkeye fan will ever forget the performances of Banks and Greene, both of those players were one-year wonders.

McNutt has produced at a steadily increasing rate for the past three seasons, and he will likely walk away as the owner of all six school major receiving records. He already owns the career records for yards and touchdowns and the single-season record for yards. With just 21 more receptions and two more touchdowns, he will add the career and single-season marks for receptions and the single-season record for touchdowns to his résumé.

He's a rare player in Ferentz's system: The wide receiver who can take over a game. No other receiver in the Ferentz era — not Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, not Clinton Solomon, and not Maurice Brown — has possessed the combination of size, speed, hands, route-running ability, and willingness to block downfield. Only Marvin McNutt.

He beats defenses on the deep post. He beats them on the fade and the slant. He beats them on the jailbreak screen and end-around, too.

Defenses know James Vandenberg will look for No. 7 each week. But they can't seem to slow him down, much less shut him down. He has been held to fewer than 100 yards in just three games this season and fewer than six receptions only twice.

That's unprecedented consistency at a high level for an Iowa receiver of any era — and especially the Ferentz era, where the mantra has always been to play hard-nosed, wear-the-defense-down football.

Other players will surpass what Banks and Greene did at Iowa. But don't be so certain that someone will one-up McNutt while wearing the Black and Gold.

— by Tork Mason


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