Bracing for Josh Allen

Wyoming’s star quarterback Josh Allen stands between the Hawkeyes and their first win of the season on Saturday.



Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass in the first quarter against BYU during the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. (Hayne Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Wyoming’s Josh Allen is the ideal quarterback prospect, oozing with talent. He’s got the size (6-5, 233 pounds) and versatility (3,726 yards of total offense) to keep defensive coordinators awake at night.

He’s on the Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, Maxwell, and Manning Award watch lists this season.

Kirk Ferentz even compared the junior with former Miami (Ohio) and current Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on numerous occasions.

Yet, Iowa isn’t worried.

The Hawkeyes will be without starting cornerback Manny Rugamba, who was suspended for a violation of team policy, and they will turn to unproven members of their secondary to fill his role.

Despite a patchy secondary, Iowa’s remains optimistic on the tall task at hand.

“I think it’ll be a fun challenge,” cornerback Joshua Jackson said. “I’m excited. They’re putting him up there to be a top [draft pick]. It’ll be a cool experience.”

Iowa’s depth chart lists Jackson as the starting left corner. Sophomore Michael Ojemudia will take Rugamba’s spot at right corner. First-year Matt Hankins and redshirt freshman Cedric Boswell round out the next two defenders on the corner depth chart.

The safety depth chart features Miles Taylor and Jake Gervase in the starting lineup, with sophomore Amani Hooker and freshman Geno Stone holding down the No. 2 slots.

Taylor started 10 games last season and 14 in 2015. Aside from him, the only defensive back to notch a start prior to the season-opener is Jackson, with one.

As with any week, the Hawkeyes dove into their game preparations with great care. Defensively, faced with Allen’s arm and inexperience in the secondary, Iowa’s film studies heightened.

After all, Saturday marks the Hawkeyes’ first time facing the Wyoming gunslinger, not to mention the first major playing time for numerous defenders.

Preparations have yet to conclude, but Iowa’s defense has a grasp on what the Wyoming offense will throw its way.

Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen have North Dakota State connections, both having coached there in recent years. As Hawkeye fans remember from last season, the Bison toppled the Hawkeyes in Kinnick, employing a complex offensive approach of various blocking schemes and offensive movement.

“[Wyoming does] a lot of motions to get you [off] kilter, to get you in the wrong places,” Ojemudia said. “You’ve got to see the whole picture when you play them … With North Dakota State, they did the same thing to get you in the wrong places, to expose you in that way.”

Former Bison offensive coordinator Tim Polasek now resides on the Iowa coaching staff as the offensive-line coach, giving the Hawkeyes insight into the North Dakota State coaching tree.

Even if Iowa feels as though it’s prepared for what the Cowboy offense will throw its way, Allen remains the wild card, possessing the ability to “damage you in a lot of ways,” linebacker Josey Jewell said.

“He might not be handing the ball off or passing, but he might be running. You’ve got to watch out for those aspects. The way he can play, he can damage you in a lot of ways,” Jewell said.

Allen racked up 3,203 yards through the air last season and tossed 28 touchdowns. He added 523 more yards and 7 scores on the ground. The only knock on Allen lies in his 15 interceptions last season.

A loss against Nebraska — Wyoming’s lone game against a Power 5 school in 2016 — highlighted Allen’s gunslinger mentality; he threw 5 interceptions.

Outside of the loss to the Cornhuskers, Allen produced questionable decision-making abilities, taking chances on throws to his receivers and providing defenses with chances at creating turnovers.

Even with the inconsistencies, the Hawkeyes aren’t anticipating many mistakes, if any, from Allen.

“You can’t use [him taking changes] as an excuse,” Jackson said. “He’s a great quarterback. He throws really well across the field — out routes, deep routes — you have to stick to your keys and play ball.”

Pressure, whether from the defensive line or linebackers, forces all quarterbacks to make quick decisions, but if too aggressive, defenses may create holes in coverages, allowing quarterbacks — especially those with Allen’s array of skills — with prime opportunities for big plays.

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