CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - “Our guys are hungry and they don’t want to go through anything like they did last year,” said Iowa coach Tommy Johns.
Any way you slice it, 2018 wasn’t a good year for the Jackets. At 2-7, Iowa had it’s worst season in a decade last year, but the team isn’t dwelling on the past.
"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder," said Iowa safety Tyler Langley. "We want to get out there and give back to them what they did to us."
Despite the record, Iowa still possessed one of the better defenses in the area a year ago. The Jackets allowed 23 or fewer points in six games and returns eight starters off that unit.
"Collectively, this is one of the better units we've have had from that (an experience) standpoint. There is no one slacking and everyone is on the same page. That's highly unusual at this level," admitted Johns.
"Last year, we were lost in new positions. This year, we are more comfortable in our positions and we know what we are doing," said Iowa linebacker Kaedunn Keys.
The Yellow Jacket offense isn't quite as experienced. Iowa brings back four total starters although Tucker Fontenot and Isiah Donald suffered pre-season injuries. The Jackets also make a change at quarterback as junior Gene Natali will be Iowa's third QB in as many seasons. His skillset will see Iowa get back to a similar style it ran a few years back.
"Gene has stepped up and he has been with us since middle school and we feel now that he is ready to go and he has progressed and come a long way," said Johns. "He is a dual-threat, he can run it and he makes good decisions with the football. He can spin it a little bit too. He's got some good receivers to throw it to and I think that is what makes us more dynamic than last year with what we're running."
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Those receivers will be young with Donald not leading the troops early, however, the coaching staff is confident in their abilities.
"Curtis DeVille will be a sophomore, and he actually played for us a little bit as a freshman. He has looked good this summer. Cejae Ceasar played a lot of defensive back for us, he is going to play some wideout. A lot of our DB's are going to flip around and play receiver too," Johns said. "We have Cade LaBruyere, he has stepped up for us a little bit towards the end last year. We do feel comfortable with the depth that we have."
Running back is an interesting position as both Tyron Brass and Dorian Jackson return off injuries and should be a fierce one-two punch in the backfield. However, the line isn't fortunate to return many starters, although, with the weapons surrounding them, it should make the job easier.
"We are a team, so we all need each other and we all rely on each other. It's not just one person," admitted Keys. "As long as we stick together and keep a level head, we'll be all right."
The Jackets are preparing to prove that 2018 was just a fluke.
“They understand how close we were to even being a 5–5 ball club last year. We lost three games with some of them even under a minute to go. We were in some really really close ball games but just couldn’t finish,” Johns said. “That’s been the name of the game for the off-season. That’s been our mantra— just finish. hopefully we can get that done this year.”