Preview 2007 - Defense
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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.
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
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman FS Brett
Best pro prospect: Iwebema
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Iwebema, 2) LB Mike
DE Bryan Mattison
Strength of the defense: Defensive line
Weakness of the defense: Pass coverage
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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.
Weakness: 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
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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
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.
Weakness: 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