Insight into the Insight -- Pregame Notes

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

TEMPE, Arizona — Mike Meyer saw what you saw in 2011. He didn't like it any better than you did.

The Iowa kicker got off to a fabulous start, hitting on 12 of his first 14 field goals. He seemed to be on track to challenge for all-Big Ten and maybe beyond. And what a boost that would've been for Iowa's special teams, which, outside of punter, has been a shaky proposition the last few seasons.

Then, the sophomore missed a 24-yarder at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes went on to lose, 22-21, and Meyer has been in a funk since, hitting just 2 of his final 6 field goals this season.

Confidence has been an issue.

"It's easy to lose confidence," said Meyer, who's 28 of 37 (76 percent) in his two seasons. "Minnesota was that game. That game might've dropped, but I think focus was part of it. I've been working on it a lot. That's been the main thing I've been working on."

Touchbacks also have been missing from Meyer's freshman year to this season. In 2010, Meyer had 15 touchbacks; this year he's had just had four. That shows up with a kick coverage team that has been inconsistent all season.

"I've been thinking about that, too," he said. "I kind of switched up how I kick, but I can't blame it all on that. I think consistency is a big indicator in that."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz backed Meyer after the Minnesota game and has all season, but after tonight's Insight Bowl, it's 2012. Iowa has competition at kicker.

Trent Mossbrucker will be a senior scholarship player next season. Marshall Koehn, a walk-on from Solon, will be a redshirt freshman.

Meyer sees them coming and knows he's going to have to be more consistent.

"It's been a fight to keep the job this year, too," Meyer said. "Trent is a really good kicker, a veteran. It'll be a good offseason with a lot of competition."

Home on the weakside

Since he broke into the lineup as a true freshman, James Morris has hovered around middle linebacker. He started six games there in 2010. He began 2011 as the No. 1 middle linebacker, starting six of the first seven games there.

Then, he got hurt, suffering a high-ankle sprain against Penn State. He sat out the next week against Northwestern. Senior Tyler Nielsen stepped in and made 12 tackles.

For the last five games, Nielsen has taken over the middle and Morris has moved to the weakside.

For Morris, is it a preview of 2012?

"I feel like right now I'm pretty comfortable there," Morris said. "I have the knowledge to play both positions. That's something I've done and that's something [linebackers] coach [Darrell] Wilson has asked us to do.

"Switching positions again I don't think would be a huge issue. I'll play wherever they need me to play."

The 2012 linebacker depth chart will include Morris and fellow sophomore Christian Kirksey. Does Iowa have a middle linebacker in the wings?

Morris could slide back into the middle. He'll be closer to the optimum 235 pounds for Iowa MLB. Other logical candidates include sophomore Anthony Hitchens, who's 2011 had a hole punched in it because of a knee injury, and freshman Quinton Alston, who'll miss the Insight with a knee issue.

Quick Slants

– For the last couple of years, Nationalchamps.net has made itself the first top 25 forecast for the next season. Its 2012 rankings came out this week.

The site has Iowa at No. 35 in 2012, behind Texas Tech and ahead of Utah. LSU is the No. 1 team with Alabama and USC behind the Tigers.

No Big Ten teams are listed in the top 10. Wisconsin is the top, coming in at No. 14 with Michigan State (15), Michigan (18), Nebraska (20) and Ohio State (24) joining the Badgers in the top 25. Penn State is listed No. 31.

– The Hawkeyes have started a different running back in each of their three-bowl winning streak. In two of those three games, an Iowa running back earned the offensive MVP award.

In the 2008 Outback Bowl, Shonn Greene capped a record-setting season with 121 yards and three TDs in Iowa's dismantling of South Carolina. Before he walked off the field, Greene announced he would leave Iowa early for the NFL draft.

Former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn won the 2010 Orange Bowl MVP, but then-freshman Brandon Wegher gained 113 yards on 16 carries and clinched Iowa's 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech with a 32-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Wegher left the team before the 2010 season started and is now out of football.

In last year's Insight Bowl, Marcus Coker stepped in for suspended Adam Robinson and rushed for 219 yards and two TDs while earning offensive MVP. Robinson eventually was dismissed from Iowa after drug possession arrest. He is at Minnesota -Duluth, an NCAA Division II school

After gaining 1,384 yards and scoring 15 TDs for the Hawkeyes this season, Coker was suspended for this year's Insight after an unspecified violation of the UI's student-athlete Code of Conduct.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said this week the door is open for Coker, who'd be a junior at Iowa next year, to return to the Hawkeyes next season.

– Junior quarterback James Vandenberg is in his first bowl start. In Iowa's six bowl victories, the quarterback has won the bowl MVP award just once.

Here is a list of Iowa bowl MVPs during the Kirk Ferentz era:

2001 Alamo — Defense: DT Derrick Pickens (INT that led to FG). Offense: RB Aaron Greving (115 yards, TD)

2004 Outback Bowl — Overall: RB Fred Russell (150 yards, TD)

2005 Capital One — Defense: DT Jonathan Babineaux. Offense: Drew Tate (20 of 32 for 287, two TDs)

2009 Outback — Overall: RB Shonn Greene (121 yards, three TDs)

2010 Orange — Overall: DE Adrian Clayborn (nine tackles, two sacks)

2010 Insight Bowl — Defense: CB Micah Hyde (72-yard INT return for TD to win it). Offense: RB Marcus Coker (219 yards, two TDs)
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