Preview 2008 - Defense
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Strength: The tackles. Kroul and King are talented
inside playmakers who'll be the focus of the entire defense. Everything
revolves around these two.
Weakness: 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.
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
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
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
Weakness: 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.
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
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
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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
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
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.
Weakness: 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.