Iowa Hawkeyes 2022 Schedule Breakdown: State of South Dakota

It’s been a strange season for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2021. There was a six-week span when all of Iowa City believed they would play on the national stage in the College Football Playoffs.

They just beat No. 4 Penn State and had one of the highest finishes ever in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches polls at No. 2. Then it all collapsed with crushing losses to unranked Purdue and Wisconsin.

It was a far cry from the team that defeated three high-ranking opponents, and while they had another hot streak to make it into the Big Ten championship game, let’s just say that didn’t go well.

All in all, taking out the sting of being destroyed 42-3 by a determined Michigan squad on national TV with the conference championship at stake, it’s been a successful season for the Hawkeyes. They finished the tournament 10-4 (one of the Vrbo Citrus Bowl losses to Kentucky, 20-17) and re-established themselves as one of the elite of the Big Ten. They’ve lost a few key players, including center Tyler Linderbaum, who was selected in the first round in the 2022 NFL draft.

On paper, the week one home matchup appears to be the perfect set-up game for a home encounter with rival Iowa State the following week. You play against an FCS opponent. That should be easy, right? Not so fast.

The jackrabbits of the state of South Dakota should not be ignored at all. They are a strong team bringing back many key players and should not be taken lightly. Here are five players to watch out for in week one against South Dakota State.

Jaxon Janke, WR

Erin Bormett / Argus Leader via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Senior receiver Jaxon Janke is one of the top returning pass catchers in the FCS ranks. Janke finished seventh at FCS in receiving yards and had a 1,176-yard team lead with 72 catches in 2021, good for a shadow over 16 yards per reception. The 6-foot-3 receiver from Madison, SD, has generated some draft buzz and could potentially be a late-round pick or a preferred undrafted free agent. His brother Jadon Janke is no bore either and reached the end zone nine times.

Mark Gronowski, QB

Quarterback will be the position the Jackrabbits will be eyeing at this year, and key to how much of a angered threat they pose to Iowa in the opening week of the season.

Mark Gronowski shone as a true freshman in 2020, throwing 15 touchdowns and adding seven more on the ground in ten games. He led the state of South Dakota to the FCS national championship game. Unfortunately, he was injured on the first drive of the national championship and missed all of 2021.

Gronowski looked like a huge star for South Dakota State in his freshman year and now appears healthy for 2022. He’s got a star-studded cast of pass catchers around him, and if he really gets back on form, he can help play a big-time threat to Iowa if they’re not prepared.

Tucker Kraft, TE

Much like Janke, tight end Tucker Kraft is another little school pass catcher that train enthusiasts are adding to their list of potential sleepers. The Timber Lake, SD native showed up for the Jackrabbits last season, catching 65 passes for 780 yards and six points. Much more than a safety valve over the middle, Kraft is a versatile threat that can make it after capture and is a player to watch out for in onscreen play.

Isaiah Davis, RB

The biggest hole the jackrabbits have to fill is running back. Pierre Strong was the top defender in FCS football last year, leading the nation with 1,686 yards. South Dakota State also needs to figure out how to replace its 16 touchdowns after Strong made the move to the NFL after being drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round.

Just because the Jackrabbits sent their lead back to the league doesn’t mean they will lose their rushing attack. Backup Isaiah Davis made the most of his touches last year with 709 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns in just seven games. Averaging 7.4 yards per carry, don’t be surprised if big hitter Davis eventually ends up on an NFL roster too.

Adam Bock, LB

Erin Bormett / Argus Leader via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Adam Bock is the heart and soul of South Dakota State Defense. For former-center Iowa high school teammate Tyler Linderbaum, who was born in Solon, Iowa, it will be a homecoming of sorts for the Jackrabbits captain.

Bock led the team with 125 tackles, 9.5 of which were lost. He also aborted six passes and intercepted two. While much attention has been paid to the Jackrabbits’ offensive firepower, don’t forget Bock on the defensive side of football.

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