You would think Sedrick Shaw might have a little job security by now. He has, after all, carried the football more times (613) and for more yardage (3,040) than anyone in Hawkeyes history. A soft-spoken senior, Shaw is smart and disciplined, and has a knack for taking [he measure of a defense, then slicing it apart with his 4.3 speed. He is coming off a school-record 1,477-yard season, yet coach Hayden Fry not only refuses to lobby for Shaw as a Heisman Trophy candidate but also says things like, "If Sedrick isn't great, he'll be beaten out by Tavian Banks."
Maybe Fry talks that way to keep Shaw on his toes. Maybe he says it because Banks is that good. Limited by a broken wrist, Banks had only 66 carries last season as a sophomore but averaged 6.1 yards per rush. Now he's healthy and could be the fastest man on the Iowa offense ("Either him or [receiver] Tim Dwight," says Fry, "depending on who has the football").
And if that's not enough for Shaw to contend with, consider true freshman tailback Rob Thein, an Iowa City native who insinuated himself into the Hawk-eyes' immediate plans with a fabulous spring. His 141-yard, three-touchdown performance in the intrasquad game sent the Iowa faithful into a frenzy and led junior quarterback Matt Sherman to dub Thein "the new mayor of Iowa City."
Certainly Sherman, who finished 17th in the nation in passing efficiency last season, can take comfort in the depth of talent at the skill positions around him. Looking wide he'll again find Iowa's two most explosive receivers from last season, Dwight and the magisterially named Demoses Odems III. The X-factor is the revamped offensive line, which has three new starters. "There's a lot of self-imposed pressure," says offensive line coach Frank Verducci, "because we know we can make the difference."
With 14 returning starters and the lingering satisfaction of the three-game winning streak that closed last season, the Hawkeyes bolstered their confidence further with a well-oiled spring. The words Rose Bowl have begun popping up on the practice field, along with an excitement that Fry is doing his best to keep in check. The coach knows—as does Sedrick Shaw—that there are no guarantees.