Depth chart breakdown: Iowa football’s offense

A change at quarterback highlights the Hawkeye offense heading into the 2020-21 season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette celebrates a kick-return touchdown during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl between Iowa and USC in San Diego on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. Smith-Marsette won Offensive MVP for the game.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa football is not getting the type of spring preparation it is accustomed to.

The starting offense for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes will have several key contributors returning next season and dangerous playmakers all around. Iowa will also have a new starting quarterback under center for the first time in three years.

Here’s an early projected look at Iowa’s offense next season.

QB — Spencer Petras (6-5, 230, RS sophomore)

The Nate Stanley era is over for the Hawkeyes, and it’s Petras’ turn to take over the starting job at quarterback. Petras, a California native, is known for his big arm. During bowl game prep last winter, Ferentz said that Petras looked like a Big Ten starting quarterback. It is still to be determined how the lack of a spring will impact the first-year starter, but the Iowa coaching staff has said it is excited to see what Petras can do on the field. 

RB — Tyler Goodson (5-10, 190, sophomore) 

Goodson has drawn comparisons to former Hawkeye running back Akrum Wadley in his time at Iowa due to his explosiveness. Goodson became the first true freshman in program history to lead the team in rushing yards (638) and is always a threat to make a big play out of the backfield both in the rushing and passing game.

Mekhi Sargent or Ivory Kelly-Martin may explore a transfer. If not, both have starting experience and would round out a very deep running back group. 

FB — Turner Pallissard (6-0, 242, RS sophomore)

Brady Ross has had a grasp on the starting fullback spot for a couple years, but after his departure there’s a bit of a question mark at the position. Pallissard seems to be the favorite at the moment. The fullback is always going to be utilized by the Ferentz brand of offense. The question for next season is how much, considering Iowa’s strength at the skill positions.

TE — Sam LaPorta (6-4, 242, sophomore) and Shaun Beyer (6-5, 244, senior)

It was a down season for Iowa’s tight end production in 2019-20, but LaPorta was a standout late in the season. He led Iowa’s tight ends in receptions with 15. In the Holiday Bowl, LaPorta tallied six catches for 44 yards. Beyer provides a veteran presence at the position, but don’t be surprised if any of the younger tight ends — such as incoming freshman Elijah Yelverton — make a difference. 

WR (“X”) — Brandon Smith (6-2, 218, senior) 

Smith suffered a high-ankle sprain Oct. 19 against Purdue that forced him to miss the rest of the regular season. To that point, he had emerged as Stanley’s favorite target with 33 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Smith is a big-bodied receiver who can make a catch over anybody.

When Smith missed time last season, Tyrone Tracy came in at the “X” position and excelled. In the final five games of the regular season, Tracy caught 27 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. 

WR (“Z”) — Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 183, senior)

Smith-Marsette finished the 2019-20 season with the most receiving yards by an Iowa wide receiver (722) since Marvin McNutt in 2011. The versatile playmaker is a threat whenever he gets the ball, and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will surely do all he can to get Smith-Marsette touches.

This spot is also where Oliver Martin could show up. After transferring from Michigan and receiving immediate eligibility, the former four-star recruit was mostly silent last season. Iowa’s receiving corps is as deep as it has been in a long time, but Martin should still make a difference for the Hawkeye offense.

 WR (“slot”) — Nico Ragaini (6-0, 192, RS sophomore) 

After Nick Easley graduated, Iowa was in need of a new slot receiver. It got one in Ragaini. The redshirt sophomore provided a safety blanket over the middle of the field for Stanley. He also showed an ability to beat defenses deep on multiple occasions. Iowa’s offense should make good use of Ragaini’s detailed route-running.

 LT — Alaric Jackson (6-6-, 320, RS senior)

Jackson decided to return to Iowa for his senior season, which is a big boost for the Hawkeye offensive line. After suffering a knee injury in the season opener last season, Jackson was never at his best the rest of the way. He’ll have a chance to produce his best season yet in his fourth year as the starting left tackle. Already a two-time all-Big Ten selection, Jackson will provide Petras some crucial protection on his blind side.

LG — Cole Banwart (6-4, 300, RS senior) OR Justin Britt (6-5, 290, RS freshman)

A torn ACL cost Banwart the final eight games of the 2019 season. He has starting experience but a history with injuries could push someone else, particularly Britt, into the starting spot. Britt suffered a concussion and missed practice time last season, which ended the speculation that he could burn his redshirt. Britt appeared in four games last season as a true freshman. 

C — Tyler Linderbaum (6-3, 286, RS sophomore)

Once a defensive tackle, Linderbaum established himself as one of the best centers in the Big Ten as a freshman. Despite his youth, Linderbaum provided a veteran mentality in the middle of the offensive line. Pro Football Focus ranked Linderbaum as Iowa’s best run blocker a season ago.

RG — Kyler Schott (6-2, 290, RS junior) 

Forced into action due Jackson’s early-season injury, Schott took the next step in his journey as a walk-on. Guard play was a problem at some times for Iowa a season ago, particularly when Schott was out of the lineup with his own injury. He should have an advantage at the right guard spot heading into the season.

RT — Coy Cronk (6-5, 325, RS senior) OR Mark Kallenberger (6-5, 291, RS junior)

With Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Tristan Wirfs onto the NFL, Iowa is left with a hole on the right side of the line. Kallenberger started five games at guard last season and received playing time in seven other contests. In the Holiday Bowl, Kallengerger played all 64 offensive snaps at left guard. With his size, Kallenberger is capable of playing tackle in the Big Ten.

His biggest competition will be from Cronk, a graduate transfer from Indiana. Cronk started 40 games in his time at Indiana and could provide the Hawkeye offense with a big experience tackle on the right side of the line.