ARENAFOOTBALL
2013 Preview: Iowa Barnstormers

ARENAFOOTBALLDOTCOM Mike Lewis returns to the Iowa defensive line after spending the last two seasons in Utah.
 
Mike Lewis returns to the Iowa defensive line after spending the last two seasons in Utah.
ARENAFOOTBALLDOTCOM

Feb. 11, 2013

By JONAH ROSENBLUM/AFNATION

2012 RECORD: 7-11 (3rd, National Conference Central)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2000, lost to Nashville Kats in Quarterfinal Playoff Game

COACH (RECORD): Mike Hohensee (142-123 overall, 7-11 with Iowa)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB J.J. Raterink (66.9 completion percentage, 93 TD, 9 INT, 4,870 passing yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Mike Lewis (30 tackles, 13.0 TFL, 12.5 sacks)

2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: t-9th overall (11th passing, 6th rushing), 11th scoring (52.7 ppg)

2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 14th overall (14th passing, 4th rushing), 12th scoring (57.3 ppg)

KEY ADDITONS: QB Antwon Young (free agent), C Bryan Boemer (free agent), DL Mike Lewis (from Utah), K Chris Gould (from Arizona), DB Drew Gardner (free agent)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Chris Dieker (to Cleveland), DB Cameron McGlenn (to Spokane)  

KEY FREE AGENTS: WR Jesse Schmidt, WR Chris Matthews, DL Justin Mincey, DB Derek Pegues

MARQUEE MATCHUPS: at Utah (Week 9), San Antonio (Week 15)

PROGNOSIS: Perhaps the biggest question Iowa fans are asking right now is “WWJD?”: What will Jesse do? Jesse Schmidt remains unassigned and rumors have swirled since the end of last season that the Barnstormers perennial All-Arena receiver may call it a career. Should Schmidt not return, the biggest hurdle standing in the way of Iowa’s first postseason berth in more than a decade is whether quarterback J.J. Raterink can find a favorite target to replace one of the all-time greats. Marco Thomas would seem to be a top candidate, as he flew under the radar with a 138-reception, 1,523-yard season in Schmidt’s shadow last year. Receivers Collin Taylor and Darius Reynolds will also be back in 2013. However, it’s the defensive side of the ball where the Barnstormers figure to make their biggest improvements. Iowa should be particularly strong on the defensive line, where Mike Lewis and Rodney Gnat join forces. Lewis began his career in Iowa, before serving as an All-Arena defensive lineman with the Utah Blaze for the past two seasons. Fresh off a 12.5-sack season, Lewis should provide star power to a line that already featured Gnat, who as a rookie in 2012, was named a captain right out of training camp and backed up the billing with a team-high five sacks during the regular season. Jack linebacker John Mohring proved to be a quality starter in his first year with the team in 2012 as well, totaling 45 tackles and scoring touchdowns off an interception, fumble recovery and kick return last season. Defensive back Jason Simpson, coming off a 10-pick season, should ensure that the Barnstormers remain strong in the secondary. He has posted 100-plus tackles in each of the past two seasons. Filling in the rest of the secondary will be a tough task. Though Ter’Ran Benton was certainly promising last year in limited appearances, the defection of leading-tackler Cameron McGlenn to Spokane in the offseason will be the most difficult hole to fill defensively. Kicking, however, will not be an issue, as the team brought in veteran Chris Gould, who made nine of 10 field goal attempts last season with the Arizona Rattlers.