June 4, 2009

A closer look at the Class of 2006

Depending on whether they were redshirted or not, the Class of 2006 heads into their junior or senior season this year for the Iowa Hawkeyes. While this class lacked the star status of the 2005 recruiting class, it doesn't lack incredibly productive players. Heading into the fall, this group makes up nearly half of Iowa's starting lineup.

Not bad for a group that was ranked 40th in the country by Rivals.com when they signed back in February of 2006.

The 2006 class has ten current players who are projected to be in the starting lineup this fall, which is more than any other class on the roster. That fact shouldn't come as a surprise given their veteran status in the program, but it is still an impressive testament to the depth in this class.

Of the 20 prospects that signed with Iowa in 2006, 13 remain on campus. One of the players, Bryon Gattas has already graduated. The other six players have left the program, more on those guys later.

This class featured two four star recruits in Adrian Clayborn and Jeremiha Hunter. Clayborn has developed into arguably Iowa's best defensive lineman heading into the season, coming off a year where he logged 35 tackles, including 8 sacks. He has future NFL player written all over him heading into his junior season.

Hunter made the most of his opportunity last season and cemented his spot in the starting linebacker on the weakside. Heading into camp he as an either/or proposition with fellow 2006 recruit, Jeff Tarpinian. Once Tarpinian was out of the mix due to injury, Hunter took over and finished the year second in tackles with 80 and five sacks. Coach Norm Parker says that the battle is still on-going between Hunter and Tarpinian heading into this fall.

Three other defensive starters have emerged from the Class of 2006. Leading the way is the only senior in this group, A.J. Edds, who will be a three year starter for the Hawkeyes. When he arrived at Iowa there was some question if Edds would be a linebacker or move to tight end. After 148 career tackles, it appears that he made the right choice.

Perhaps the player destined to be the highest draft pick when the NFL eventually comes calling is Amari Speivey. Coming out of high school in Connecticut, Spievey was a little known two star prospect who was known more for his play as a running back than a lockdown corner. In his first year at Iowa, Speivey spent the year as a redshirt and found himself in academic trouble at the end of the school year and transferred to Iowa Central Community College. It was there that he got his life in order as a student and an athlete. Spievey returned to Iowa last fall, but no one expected him to be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season. That's exactly what he did and as the season progressed he got better and better.

After a season in which he had 68 tackles, four interceptions (including one touchdown return), and six pass breakup's, Spievey has gone from unknown to All Conference and potential All American. This spring, Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker said that Speivey has the potential to be the best cornerback he has had at Iowa.

The final expected starter on defensive from this class is Karl Klug. After struggling with back problems early on, Klug emerged as a spot duty force in the middle spelling Mitch King and Matt Kroul. This fall, he will be moving into prime time as a starting defensive tackle. Klug was a two star prospect coming out of Minnesota, but he could be poised for a breakout year this fall because he is a very active and disruptive player in the middle. The best example of his potential came against Florida International last year when he earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after collecting nine tackles and two sacks in the game.

On the offensive side, four starters are expected to take the field from the Class of 2006. Ricky Stanzi leads the way at quarterback for the Hawkeyes for the second straight year. He took over the full-time duties after the loss to Pittsburgh last year and never looked back, throwing for 1,956 yards and 14 touchdowns. Stanzi was a three star prospect coming out of high school and has a great opportunity to be a three year starter at Iowa.

Speaking of long term starters, not many players have the chance to start for four years at the University of Iowa on the offensive line, but that is exactly what could happen for Julian Vandervelde. The Davenport native was a three star prospect out of high school and initially was going to grayshirt in his first year out of high school, but when an opening happened in camp, he was brought in that fall and redshirted. He quickly moved up the depth charted and started as a redshirt freshman. He will have a battle on his hands this fall to keep that spot at guard and there is also a potential move to center that could be on the horizon.

One name that always gets Iowa fans excited is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the multi-talented wide receiver from Ohio. The buzz on DJK, as he is known to Hawkeye fans, coming out of high school was big, very big. ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit fanned those flames with his gushing comments about DJK before he arrived on campus.

In many ways, DJK, who was a late signee for Iowa, has lived up to the hype. The former three star prospect led Iowa in receiving last year with 44 catches and has 82 for his career for 940 yards with two years remaining. He is fighting for his starting spot heading into camp, but there is no question he will see plenty of reps this fall.

The final offensive starter from this class is Iowa's backfield guard, or fullback, Brett Morse. Nicknamed Robo Cop in his senior year of high school after playing quarterback with a bulky cast on his arm, Morse has settled in at fullback. He won't get many carries (he had zero last season) and a few passes might come his way, but Morse helped lead the way for Shonn Greene's record setting rushing performance in 2008.

On special teams, Iowa's Ryan Donahue has developed into one of the top punters in the conference. After and up and down redshirt freshman season, Donahue found his groove in 2008, averaging 41.6 yards a kick, including 19 inside the 20 yard line. With two seasons remaining at Iowa, Donahue will likely get All Conference attention this fall if he continues to improve.

Three non-starters who remain with the Hawkeyes are expected to be significant contributors in 2009 and beyond. We already mentioned former three star prospect Jeff Tarpinian from Omaha. If not for some untimely injuries, Tarpinian might be a returning starter and he could very well unseat Hunter this fall. The race is that close according to Norm Parker.

Also at linebacker is Troy Johnson, who could see more playing time if Iowa opts for a three-four look on occasion. Like Tarpinian, Johnson has had more than his share of injuries at Iowa and has performed well when given a chance.

Now for the downside of this class, the players who left the Iowa program and unfortunately several weren't under the best of circumstances. This class featured the players who were part of City Boyz Inc. that created front page news for the pictures and off the field actions. Those players included Dominique Douglas, who led Iowa in receiving as a true freshman, Anthony Bowman, Arvell Nelson, James Cleveland, and Anthony Bowman. Douglas has faced more legal trouble since leaving Iowa and is out of football. Cleveland played a year of JUCO football in Texas and is now at the University of Houston. Bowman played a year of JUCO football in Arizona and is now at Kent State. Nelson played a year of JUCO football in Kansas and is now headed to Texas Southern. Also leaving the program at that time was Derrick Smith. Julian Smith was a highly touted linebacker that finally made it to Iowa after a year at Milford Prep who was forced to leave before the start of the season due to academic questions and played JUCO football in California. The last player to leave was Lance Tillison, who transferred after last season.

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