2007 Iowa Hawkeye - Defense

Posted Jun 21, 2007

Preview 2007 Iowa Hawkeye Defense

Iowa Hawkeyes

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Iowa Preview | 2007 Iowa Offense Preview 
2007 Iowa Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Iowa Preview 

What you need to know: You basically know what you're getting with the Iowa defense. It's not going to do anything fancy, it's not going to bring any funky blitzes, and most teams should be able to get yards through the air without a problem. However, everyone can hit and there are few mistakes made. Eight starters return, led by end Ken Iwebema and one of the Big Ten's best lines, while the replacements for the departed starters are good. Forcing more turnovers, making more plays behind the line, and generating more pressure are all vital to coming up with a better year.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Mike Klinkenborg, 129
Sacks: Bryan Mattison, 6.5
Interceptions: Mike Humpal, Adam Shada, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DE Ken Iwebema
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior SS Harold Dalton
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman FS Brett Greenwood
Best pro prospect: Iwebema
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Iwebema, 2) LB Mike Klinkenborg, 3)
DE Bryan Mattison
Strength of the defense: Defensive line
Weakness of the defense: Pass coverage

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
 All four starters return to a line that was disappointing throughout last year, but could now turn into a major strength. It helps to get back a healthy Ken Iwebema, who missed most of the second half of last year with a shoulder injury and only made 27 tackles with three sacks. When he's right, the 6-4, 267-pound senior is among the best all-around ends in the Big Ten with excellent pass rushing skills and good strength against the run. Extremely consistent in all areas, his return instantly makes the line better.

Back on the other side is 6-3, 272-pound senior Bryan Mattison, who isn't anywhere nearly the athlete that Iwebema is, but he's almost as good. He stepped up when Iwebema went down, finishing with 59 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, and deserved more recognition than he received. Now, he should flourish with offenses having to concentrate on Iwebema all the time.

The ends might be all-stars, but the tackles don't take a back seat to them. Juniors Matt Kroul and Mitch King are each good enough to be part of the All-Big Ten mix at the end of the year after growing into their jobs over the last two years. The 6-3, 264-pound King makes up for his lack of bulk with excellent quickness. The former linebacker is a terrific interior pass rusher with 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss along with 56 tackles (and 116 stops over the last two years) despite being dinged up throughout last season. The 6-3, 277-pound Kroul has made 107 tackles over the last two years having bulked up after starting his career as a linebacker. While not the athlete that King is, he can get into the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves: The starting jobs are set, but that doesn't mean there won't be a place for redshirt freshman Adrian Clayborn. The star recruit of two years ago is a tackle-sized 6-3 and 275 pounds with the athleticism to grow into a next-level pass rusher. He'll start out behind Iwebema and should carve out a niche for himself as a top pass rusher before taking over the full-time job next year. It's not crazy to suggest he's a better pro prospect than Iwebema.

Bringing more bulk to the line is 6-3, 285-pound junior Rashad Dunn, a former offensive lineman who'll play behind Kroul. While he's hardly a finished product and will need plenty of seasoning, he should grow into a good run stopper over the next few years.

Watch Out For ... Clayborn. He was this close to playing as a true freshman, but now he gets a full year to work his way into the rotation before being the star of the line for three years. With size, strength and speed, he has all the measurables to be a star.
Strength: Pass rushing experience. All four spots can get into the backfield on a regular basis, and with the return of Iwebema, the ends will wreak havoc.
Size. Iowa usually gets away with having smaller, quicker tackles and bigger ends, but once in a while, the lack of beef on the interior is a problem against bigger, stronger Big Ten lines.
Outlook: New defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski inherits a heater of a hand. If everyone stays healthy, this might turn into the Big Ten's best front four. All the starters are legitimate All-Big Ten candidates with Iwebema in a salary drive before becoming a top 50 draft pick next year. The backups aren't experienced, but there's plenty of talent and upside to get excited about.
Rating: 9


Projected Starters
 Two starters return led by tackling machine Mike Klinkenborg, who was the heart and soul of the Hawkeye defense making 129 tackles and five tackles for loss in the middle. The 6-2, 240-pound senior isn't anywhere near the talent Abdul Hodge was, he's a very smart, very tough playmaker who's always around the ball and always being disruptive. Not great in pass coverage, his worth is as a run stopper.

On the weakside will be 6-3, 242-pound senior Mike Humpal after a decent 49 tackle season with three interceptions. He has excellent size for the position and excellent speed with the versatility to play inside or out. He suffered perception-wise from not being Chad Greenway, but that's an unfair standard to live up to. He's as tough as they come.

Stepping in for Ed Miles at the third spot will be 6-4, 244-pound sophomore A.J. Edds, a former tight end who made nine tackles as a reserve after making the switch. He got a start when Humpal was banged up and did a decent job, but he's still going to need time before he grows into the full-time role.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 233-pound senior Bryon Gattas saw time in every game last year making seven tackles. The former JUCO transfer will play behind Klinkenborg with good range and toughness. With decent speed, he could play either outside spot.

Playing behind Humpal on the weakside will be 6-1, 230-pound sophomore Pat Angerer after making five stops as a reserve. With good quickness, he'll be groomed to take over the 2008 starting job, but he could end up playing in the middle at times.

Ready to emerge as a major star is 6-2, 222-pound redshirt freshman Jeremiha Hunter. A top recruit two years ago, he's starting to bulk up a little more to become more physical on the outside behind Edds. He has the speed and skill to potentially play anywhere in the corps.

Watch Out For ... nothing flashy. A few years ago, Hodge and Greenway made big plays happen on talent mixed into the defensive scheme. Klinkenborg and Humpal aren't All-Americans who'll make highlight reels, but they're rock-solid defenders.
Strength: Toughness. Not perpetuate the Iowa stereotype, but the linebackers are meat-and-potatoes players who don't make a lot of mistakes and always make the plays that need to be made.
Raw athleticism. The linebackers aren't sticks in the mud by any stretch, but they're not going to fly all over the field and disrupt things. The reserves are better athletes than the starters.
Outlook: The corps makes up for any problems by going full-tilt, 100%, all the time. Klinkenborg is an all-star to revolve everything else around, Humpal is serviceable, and Edds is a rising playmaker who'll be an All-Big Ten performer before his career is done. There's good enough depth to not worry too much if injuries strike.
Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
 One of the big surprises of the off-season was the emergence of 6-0, 200-pound redshirt freshman Brett Greenwood as a viable option to take over for Marcus Paschal. The former walk-on throws his body all over the field and isn't afraid to play like he has something to prove. While he's not the greatest athlete around, he makes up for it by doing everything right.

Stepping into the vacant strong safety spot will be 6-1, 201-pound junior Harold Dalton, who brings excellent speed to the secondary. While he's been on the field a little bit here and there, he has yet to make a tackle in his career and starts the season as the biggest question mark on the defense replacing Miguel Merrick.

There aren't any concerns with the corners with seniors Adam Shada and Charles Godfrey returning. At 6-1 and 208 pounds, Godfrey is a former free safety who hits like a ton of bricks making 83 stops, two interceptions and five tackles for loss, but he he covers like a linebacker. His size makes him strong against the bigger receivers. Now he has to show he can handle the better ones.

The 6-1, 195-pound Shada is also a good-sized defender, and while he's not the tackler Godfrey is, he isn't bad with 40 stops, three interceptions and six tackles for loss despite missing time late in the year with a leg injury. He's a good, smart ball hawker who took an interception 98 yards for a score against Purdue.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for time at free safety, along with Greenwood, is 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Marcus Wilson. An excellent reserve making 21 tackles and a pick, he's a terrific athlete and a smart defender who knows how to get in the right position. If nothing else, he'll play a big role in nickel and dime packages.

6-2, 200-pound junior Bradley Fletcher has seen plenty of action making 38 tackles and breaking up four passes as a reserve and a spot starter stepping in for an injured Shada. With tremendous quickness, he can step into either corner spot or play safety if desperately needed.

Watch Out For ... Greenwood. Never question the heart and fight of a walk-on. He'll split time with Wilson and make the free safety spot a strength over the course of the year.
Strength: Corner experience. Shada earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors while Godfrey is a good veteran who's one of the best in the league in run support. The safeties will be better than they might appear considering the secondary loses mainstays in Merrick and Paschal.
Pass coverage. The corners can't do it. Shada isn't bad, but he's hardly a shut-down corner who can erase an opposing number one. Iowa always gives up a ton of yards, but its effectiveness is in how well it does on short to midrange plays.
Outlook: The secondary will be better than the stats will show. With a better pass rush expected from the front four, the corners will get more of a break. There won't be any missed tackles, and there won't be a ton of yards after the catch, but there could be plenty of deep passes here and there.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters
 Considering Kyle Schlicher slipped in production between his junior and senior seasons, he won't be as tough to replace as it might appear. 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Austin Signor has a good leg and hit his two field goal attempts last year. Taking over the punting job from Andy Fenstermaker, who averaged a pedestrian 37.6 yards per kick, but forced a whopping 25 fair catches and put 19 inside the 20, will be redshirt freshman Ryan Donohue. He might not have the accuracy of Fenstermaker, but he'll air it out with several big blasts.

Watch Out For ... Signor. Iowa always seems to have good kickers, but can Signor keep up the recent tradition? If not, redshirt freshman Daniel Murray will quickly step in. The placekicking situation will be the difference in at least two games, and it needs to be solidified.
Strength: Big legs. Dononue has a big one, and Signor shouldn't have any problem with his range. Consistency and accuracy will be the issues.
Kickoff returns. The Hawkeyes were terrible last season averaging just 17.79 yards per return. Beefing up the kickoff coverage unit would also help after allowing 23 yards per return.
Outlook: The potential is there to be good, but it might take a while. The punting game won't allow 2.9 yards per return again, and there will be some misfires here and there from the kicking game. Even so, this won't be a major weakness unless Signor and Murray start shanking.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 Iowa Hawkeye - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 21, 2007
2007 Iowa Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 22, 2007
2007 Iowa Hawkeye - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 21, 2007

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