2008 Iowa Preview - Defense

Posted Apr 28, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Iowa Hawkeye Defense

Iowa Hawkeyes

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Iowa Preview | 2008 Iowa Offense
- 2008 Iowa Defense | 2008 Iowa Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Iowa Preview | 2006 CFN Iowa Preview 

What you need to know: Considering there was no help whatsoever from the offense, the defense came up with a fantastic season allowing 351 yards and 19 points per game. There will be major changes to be made, especially on the outside, but the middle of the line will be among the best in the Big Ten with the return of tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The safeties should be solid, but Bradley Fletcher and Drew Gardner need to shine at corner considering the pass rush might not be steady right away. The biggest issue is at linebacker where A.J. Edds leads a very green, but very athletic group of young prospects.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: A.J. Edds, 80
Sacks: Mitch King. 4.5
Interceptions: Bradley Fletcher, Brett Greenwood, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DT Mitch King
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LB Jacody Coleman
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Jeff Tarpinian
Best pro prospect: King
Top three all-star candidates: 1) King, 2) DT Matt Kroul, 3) LB A.J. Edds
Strength of the defense: Defensive tackle, safety
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, linebacker experience

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Everything starts in the middle with one of the Big Ten's best tackle pairs. The star of the defense is 6-3, 264-pound senior Mitch King, a first-team All-Big Ten selection who made 58 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. While he's not all that big for a big-time tackle, he's extremely quick former linebacker who blows linemen off the ball with a good first step. He's not an anchor, but he makes plays all over the place by moving to the ball.

Standing in the shadow of King is 6-3, 277-pound senior Matt Kroul, an honorable mention All-Big Ten performer who was fourth on the team with 74 tackles. While he's not a threat to get into the backfield, he's a productive, strong run stopper with the strength to be the one the rest of the line works around. He started out his career as a linebacker, and while he's not a top athlete, he's not a statue.

Sophomore Adrian Clayborn is like a third tackle on the line at 6-3 and 275 pounds. A good backup throughout the year making 20 tackles with two sacks, he's a good all-around playmaker who'll do a little of everything well. He might not be a top pass rusher, but he should work his way into the backfield.

Working his way into a starting role is Christian Ballard, a 6-4, 270-pound sophomore who made 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and four tackles for loss as a key reserve. Even at his size, he has the quickness, speed and moves of a much smaller end. He might not be an elite pass rusher, but he'll find his way to the quarterback.

Projected Top Reserves: While Clayborn is a good-looking young player, 6-3, 261-pound junior Chad Geary will be a major factor as he pushes for a job. He saw enough time as a reserve, making 11 tackles with two sacks, to be considered a promising prospect. He could start sooner than later.

Way undersized tackle Karl Klug is a favorite of the coaching staff, but he has to prove he can stay healthy behind Kroul. He was supposed to play a big role last year, but he only saw time in one game and made a tackle. At only 235 pounds, he needs to use his quickness to be effective.

6-4, 260-pound sophomore Cody Hundertmark isn't a huge tackle, but he's one of the team's biggest backup options. With a good motor and nice potential in the rotation behind King, he made two tackles in his limited time.

On the way is top recruits Riley Reiff, a 6-5, 250-pound end who's the one of the new crop able to step in and start right away. The player of the year in South Dakota last season, he finished his career with 261 tackles and 23 sacks, and was also a good tight end and a state champion wrestler.

Watch Out For ... more of a push for the end jobs than many might think. Clayborn and Ballard are good, but Geary is good enough to start. Don't be shocked if Reiff turns into a player right away.
Strength: The tackles. Kroul and King are talented inside playmakers who'll be the focus of the entire defense. Everything revolves around these two.
Size. Iowa usually gets away with having smaller, quicker tackles and bigger ends, and that'll be the case again this year. Kroul and King haven't had much of a problem with their lack of bulk, but three power teams with good lines, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State, were able to produce.
Outlook: With the expected emergence of Clayborn and Ballard as potential pass rushers, and with a pair of all-stars in Kroul and King, there will be few problems getting into the backfield. There's a bit of a problem with the lack of developed depth, and several untested players will have to play like veterans early on.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters
 The one returning starter, A.J. Edds, needs to be a star until the rest of the corps comes around. The 6-4, 244-pound junior was second on the team with 80 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss on the strongside, and while he's not a special player, the former tight end is a good veteran who does a little of everything well. He'll even have responsibility to get into the backfield.

Moving into the middle, in place of Mike Klinkenborg, will be sophomore Jacody Coleman, a 6-3, 240-pound hitter who made 24 tackles in a reserve role. He's an active hitter who'll be all over the field and could be a regular into the backfield. While he won't be asked to be a pass rusher, he could become one.

The team's biggest loss is leading Mike Humpal, and now it'll be up to 6-3, 220-pound sophomore Jeff Tarpinian to take over on the weakside. He saw a little time in almost every game and made 13 tackles after moving over from defensive back. The 2005 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year as a great option quarterback. It'll take him a little while, but he'll be a force all over the field.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Edds on the strongside will be Dezman Mozes, a 6-2, 215-pound sophomore who made eight tackles and a tackle for loss seeing time in every game as a reserve. While he's not that big, he can move, but he'll have to prove he can hold up against run when the stronger tight ends lock on.

If Tarpinian is the No. 1 weakside option, 6-2, 222-pound sophomore Jeremiha Hunter is No. 1 A. A top recruit a few years ago, he has yet to come close to living up to his billing making just 10 tackles with a tackle for loss. He has the speed to play outside, and the strength to work inside, but he has to put all his skills to use and produce.

Watch Out For ... a battle on the weakside. Tarpinian has the athleticism and the upside to be a star if he's allowed time to develop and work through his mistakes. Hunter isn't going to just sit by and just be a part of the rotation without a fight. All the winner of the job has to do is replace Humpal, who replaced Chad Greenway.
Strength: Athleticism. There might be experience problems, and there might be plenty of mistakes made, but overall this is one of the quicker linebacking corps the Hawkeyes have had in a while
Proven production. Edds is a given, but replacing the 123 tackles of Humpal and the 79 stops of Klinkenborg, even if they came in just nine games, won't be easy.
Outlook: This was a tough, quick group last year that did whatever it had to against the run. Now two key stars, Humpal and Klinkenborg, will be missed. There will be some battles going on for the middle and weakside jobs, but at this point, Iowa has become a factory for linebacking production. This should be a tremendously active group once everyone gets their feet wet.
Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
 Step one is replacing top corner Charles Godfrey, and it looks like Bradley Fletcher has the chance to do it. A top backup who made 43 stops and two interceptions, the 6-2, 200-pound senior has no problem coming up with stops. Now, with great quickness to go along with his good size, he'll have to be a steady defender against the bigger, more physical receivers.

Looking to take over for corner Adam Shada on the other side will be
senior Drew Gardner, who'll be in a battle to hold on to the spot. At 5-10 and 178 ponds, he's not all that big, making six tackles in his 12 appearances, but he has been a decent reserve who'll likely end up coming off the bench in a rotation.

Returning to his spot at free safety is Brett Greenwood, a 6-2, 200-pound hitter who made 45 tackles with two interceptions and seven tackles for loss. With good size, he's strong against the run and has decent range. While the former walk-on isn't the best athlete around, he's usually doing something right and is a decent all-around defender.

6-1, 201-pound senior Harold Dalton will try to take back his strong safety job after making 49 tackles with four broken up passes. With his size, and now with a year of experience, plus time as a key reserve, the spotlight will be on. Even though he's not a top playmaker, he's still a good veteran who'll be used in some way.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jordan Bernstine would likely be the starting corner on the other side of Fletcher if it wasn't for a shoulder injury. He made nine tackles, mostly has a nickel back, and while he has good speed and 5-11, 200-pound size, he needs to be a bigger factor as a fifth defensive back.

Trying to break out is 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Sash, a brash, tough strong safety who hits like a ton of bricks and has excellent athleticism. However, Sash still needs work meaning 6-2, 205-pound sophomore Lance Tillison will get every opportunity to win the job, and he might have it going into spring ball. A special teamer last year, he made just two tackles, but he has good size and nice range.

Watch Out For ... the strong safety job. Dalton would seem to be a lock to return to his spot, but Tillison has the bigger upside and could take over right away. If nothing else there will be a good rotation.
Strength: The safeties. They're not special by any stretch, but Greenwood and Sash can hit, and Dalton and Tillison are promising. They'll help out a linebacking corps that's still trying to get its feet wet.
Interceptions. The team came up with 14 last year, but the linebackers snagged four of them and the departed Charles Godfrey got five. Someone will have to step up and become a playmaker.
Outlook: The secondary did a great job considering there wasn't a great pass rush and no one could run the ball, but when push came to shove, the DBs got shoved. This isn't an all-star group, but it won't be a weakness. More big plays will be needed and the corners will get tested, but things should be fine.
Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters
 In what was supposed to be a two-man race for the placekicking job, it's now all Daniel Murray's after Austin Signor, who hit three of six field goals and was the kickoff man, transferred. Murray, a sophomore, was a decent seven of 10 with three of four coming from 40-to-49 yards. He's fine, but he'll have to fight off Trent Mossbrucker, a talented recruit who should be special in time.

Handling the punting chores again will be Ryan Donahue, an excellent directional kicker who put 24 inside the 20, averaged 41.1 yards per kick, and force 21 fair catches, but also put a whopping 15 kicks in the end zone for a touchback. He has a huge leg cranking out an 82-yarder.

Andy Brodell is the team's best punt returner, averaging 14.4 yards per try last year, but it'll be Paul Chaney and Colin Sandeman, who averaged 7.7 yards on 12 tries, who'll get the first look. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos averaged a solid 23.7 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For ... Mossbrucker. He's coming in with a ton of hype, and while Murray improved over the second half of last season, he doesn't have a monster leg. Mossbrucker will be expected to be a star sooner than later.
Strength: Coverage teams. The Hawkeyes were excellent here last year allowing a mere 6.1 yards per punt return and 18.2 yards per kickoff return.
Field goals. Things should be better once Murray and/or Mossbrucker settles in, but Iowa only hit 10 of 16 field goal attempts. For a team that should have issues on offense, field goals have to be automatic.
Outlook: The special teams are solid and should be a strength. The kicking game is above average, the return game is fine, and the coverage teams are great. Blocking five kicks last season was a big plus. Now, if the field goals start to come on a more regular basis, the potential is there for Iowa to have among the best special teams in the conference.



Related Stories
Humpal Headed to Steel City
 -by HawkeyeInsider.com  Apr 27, 2008
Godfrey Has Carolina on His Mind
 -by HawkeyeInsider.com  Apr 27, 2008
Hawkeye Grab Bag
 -by HawkeyeInsider.com  Apr 30, 2008

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