Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 8, 2016

Iowa has a tough act to follow. What will the Hawkeyes do for an encore to one of the greatest seasons in school history? Iowa went 12-0 in the regular season, won the Big Ten West and played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1990 season.

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Kirk Ferentz will have a lot of talent back for his 18th edition. The offense will have players like QB C.J. Beathard, RBs LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley, WR Matt VandeBerg, TE George Kittle and three linemen. The defense will include every key player but S Jordan Lomax, E Nate Meier and LB Cole Fisher. Stud E Drew Ott is petitioning for a fifth year of eligibility after injury ended his 2015 prematurely. And the defense got a huge boost when Thorpe Award winning CB and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year Desmond King opted to return for his senior season.

But there are some key players that must be replaced, including TE Henry Krieger-Coble, K Marshall Koehn and P Dillon Kidd. Here are the top five.

C Austin Blythe. A consensus second-team All-Big Ten pick, Blythe helped Iowa rank No. 5 in the Big Ten in rushing (181.7 ypg), No. 5 in total offense (386.1 ypg) and No. 4 in scoring (30.9 ppg). A true anchor in the middle.

RB Jordan Canzeri. When the season began, Canzeri wasn?t the No. 1 back. By the end of the year, he was top dog. Canzeri ran 183 times for 984 yards and 12 TDs. He was at his best vs. Illinois, running for 256 yards on a school-record 43 carries. Canzeri was a consensus third-team All-Big Ten selection. He finished his career with 390 carries for 2,073 yards and 14 TDs.

S Jordan Lomax. A quarterback in the secondary, Lomax made 96 tackles last season to rank No. 3 on the team. Lomax also broke up six passes. His savvy and experience will be missed.

WR Tevaun Smith. He provided some juice and a vertical element to an often-plodding offense, making 32 catches for 563 yards with three TDs in 2015. He leaves Iowa City with 102 career receptions for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns.

G Jordan Walsh. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and a second-team choice by the media. Walsh was a strong force on the interior of the line, helping fuel a Hawkeye rushing attack that averaged 181.7 yards. Last year, Iowa averaged 163.1 yards rushing.