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2009 Iowa Preview - Defense
Iowa LB Pat Angerer
Iowa LB Pat Angerer
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 13, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Iowa Hawkeye Defense

Iowa Hawkeyes

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Iowa Preview | 2009 Iowa Offense
- 2009 Iowa Defense | 2009 Iowa Depth Chart
- 2008 Iowa Preview | 2007 Iowa Preview | 2006 Iowa Preview

What you need to know:
The formula worked last year and it should be more of the same. Don't worry about the pass rush, don't get beaten deep, keep everything in front, and hit, hit, hit. The back seven should be fantastic, possibly the best in the Big Ten, with Pat Angerer leading a loaded linebacking corps and Amari Spievey a rising superstar at corner. The defensive front takes a huge, irreplaceable hit losing tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, but there's good size and experience on the outside and a promising, but inexperienced, rotation on the inside. Iowa was terrific last season against the run, finishing fifth in the nation, and it'll be a shock if it's not close to as strong again. While there won't be many plays behind the line and nothing fancy done to generate pressure on the quarterback, it shouldn't affect the overall production.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Pat Angerer, 107
Sacks: Adrian Clayborn, A.J. Edds, 2
Interceptions: Pat Angerer, Tyler Sash, 5

Star of the defense: Senior LB Pat Angerer
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Karl Klug
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Jordan Bernstine
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Adrian Clayborn
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Angerer, 2) LB Jeremiha Hunter, 3) CB Amari Spievey
Strength of the defense: Run defense, Pass efficiency defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, Tackle size

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Replacing Shonn Greene on offense is tough, but replacing the ultra-productive tackle tandem of Mitch King and Matt Kroul could be impossible. The best of the possible replacements is Karl Klug, a 6-4, 258-pound junior who stepped in early on and earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week against FIU. On the year he made 17 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss, and while he's not all that big, but he bulked up over 20 pounds in the last year and he's extremely active. 

Also stepping in at tackle is Mike Daniels, a little used 6-1, 267-pound sophomore who saw a little work as a redshirt freshman with six tackles and a sack in nine games. A potentially strong interior pass rusher, he's a big-time athlete with the quickness to become a major factor early on.

While the interior is a question mark, the outside is solid with junior Adrian Clayborn the best of the bunch. Bigger than the tackles, the 6-3, 282-pounder was a fantastic run stopper making 59 tackles with two sacks and eight tackles for loss. While he's not a great pass rusher, and he'll get a look from the NFL types as a 3-4 end, he'll be an active All-Big Ten performer.

6-5, 285-pound junior Christian Ballard is another big end who would likely work better as a tackle or a 3-4 end. However, he's a steady starter who made 40 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. While he's big for the outside, he has the quickness of a much smaller player and he should start doing more to get to the quarterback.

Projected Top Reserves: The line was hoping for 6-3, 262-pound senior Chad Geary to be a major factor at one end after making 15 tackles as a key reserve, but he suffered a torn ACL this offseason and will be out until midseason at optimistic best.

Part of the rotation on the end will be Broderick Binns, a promising 6-2, 255-pound sophomore who came up with 22 tackles and two sacks. Potentially the team's best pass rusher, he'll be used far more if one of the big end prospects ends up moving in

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.

With so little size on the inside, a bulked up Steve Bigach could end up playing a big role. He bulked up over his first year with the program to get to 270 pounds on the 6-3 frame, and now the redshirt freshman should turn out to be a key run stuffer in the rotation. Very smart, he'll pick up his assignments in a hurry.

6-4, 280-pound junior Cody Hundertmark was supposed to play a key role last season, but he missed all of last year with a shoulder problem. Now he's back and fully healthy, and with his size and excellent motor, he should be a major producer off the bench.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to agonize over whether or not to move Clayborn to the inside. With the backup tackles not quite ready for full-time work, it'll be tempting to take one of the big ends to help out. If Geary was healthy, that might have been easier to do.
Strength: Size on the outside. Iowa gets away with having smaller, quicker tackles, and the lack of bulk certainly wasn't an issue last year with Mitch King and Matt Kroul. With the sheer bulk of Clayborn and Ballard, holding up against bigger O lines isn't an issue. The backup tackles have the size to fill in and help clog things up if needed.
Weakness
:
Pass rush. Yeah, Iowa has big size on the end, but it comes at a cost. The Hawkeyes, even with the quick interior playmakers they had last year, were last in the Big Ten in both sacks and tackles for loss. There might not be much of an improvement this year.
Outlook: Losing Mitch King and Matt Kroul and their 566 career tackles will hurt, but the expected emergence of Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard as bigger stars will ease the pain. The new tackles aren't going to be King and Kroul, but they'll be quick and they'll be active. The run defense allowed a mere 94 yards per game despite being unable to get into the backfield. This year should be more of the same with little pass rush but a strong front four against the run.
Rating: 7

Linebackers

Projected Starters
:
From out of nowhere, 6-1, 235-pound senior went to a benchwarmer to an All-Big Ten caliber playmaker. After making six tackles in his first two years, he hit everything that moved, and plenty of things that didn't, with a team-leading 107 stops with 6.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions. Extremely quick and very tough against the run, he doesn't get dragged to get a runner down and he doesn't make too many plays down the field. He's a point-of-attack defender who showed stunning instincts against the pass.

Back on the outside, in a strongside role, will be A.J. Edds, the lone returning starter to last year's corps who came up big as the early leader. While his stats dipped, making 59 tackles and two sacks after making 80 stops as a sophomore, he was still tremendously effective and was a steady, consistent performer. While the former tight end is tough as nails, making 25 straight starts, he needs to get over a shoulder problem.

6-2, 235-pound junior Jeremiha Hunter came to Iowa as a superstar recruit, and was less than sensational early on. His potential became production last season finishing second on the team with 80 tackles with an interception and five tackles for loss. Extremely fast and big for a weakside defender, he needs to do a bit more against the pass and could stand to be more of a pass rusher, but everyone would be happy with a repeat of last year's production.  

Projected Top Reserves: Before the emergence of Pat Angerer as a star in the middle, junior Jacody Coleman was penciled in as the starter. An active hitter with the quickness and athleticism to be all over the field, he turned out to be a nice backup making 28 tackles with two tackles for loss. He started the first two games of last season, and he could end up stepping in without a problem if something happens to Angerer.

Junior Jeff Tarpinian got the first look at the vacant weakside job early last year, but he ended up being used only as a backup making 17 tackles. At 6-3 and 233 pounds he's a tall, rangy defender with good speed. The 2005 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year as an option quarterback was originally considered a safety prospect, and he should play a bigger role as a linebacker.

Watch Out For ... Hunter. He's the team's most talented linebacker and he just scratched the surface on what he might become with his breakout year. He'll be out of the limelight with most of the attention and publicity going to Angerer, but he could have the better season.
Strength: Experience. Proven production was an issue going into last year, but the linebacking corps turned out to be even better despite the loss of stars Mike Humpal and Mike Klinkenborg. This year, all three starters are back along with several good backups.
Weakness: Plays in the backfield. This is nitpicking because the linebackers didn't do much behind the line by design, but it wouldn't be a bad thing if all the experience and all the athleticism turned into more big plays.
Outlook: The linebacking corps turned out to be better than anyone could've dreamed. Granted, the great defensive tackles turned out to do much of the dirty work and the linebackers cleaned things up. That's not to say Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds, and Jeremiha Hunter weren't fantastic, but now they'll likely have more responsibility. All three could end up on All-Big Ten teams.
Rating: 9

Secondary

Projected Starters
:
No. 1 corner Bradley Fletcher is gone, but junior Amari Spievey appears ready to take over the job. A JUCO All-American two years ago, Spievey has 6-0, 190-pound size and nice hitting ability finishing third on the team with 68 tackles with four interceptions and six broken up passes. A fantastic ball-hawk who makes things happen with the ball in his hands, passing games will avoid the game-changer at all costs.

Stepping in for Fletcher at left corner will be Jordan Bernstine, a 5-11, 205-pound junior who made 12 tackles and an interception in his backup role. Originally considered for a starting job last season, that Spievey eventually took over, a shoulder injury kept him down early on and he never got a chance to move up. With good all-around skills, he should come up with a big season with plenty of passes certain to come his way.

6-1, 210-pound sophomore strong safety Tyler Sash is a tough defender who was considered a bit rough around the edges going into last year, but he came through with a nice year against the with 53 tackles. A good a hitter as he was, he was even better against the pass with five picks with 147 return yards. Most importantly, he was the one who came up with the big late pick in the win over Penn State.

Back at free safety is Brett Greenwood, a 6-0, 200-pound junior who finished tied for third on the team with 68 tackles with four interceptions. The former walk-on isn't necessarily an elite athlete for the position, but he's experienced, tough, and is always around the ball. He's always doing something positive.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 175-pound sophomore Shaun Prater was a nice backup corner in his first season making 11 tackles with two broken up passes, and now he'll combine with sophomore William Lowe to backup Jordan Bernstine. Prater is a smart defender who isn't afraid to his, while Lowe is a 5-10, 170-pound speedster who made two tackles. Both played as true freshmen.

Sophomore David Cato is a big-time prospect who made 292 tackles in high school and stepped in as a true freshman to make 13 tackles as a key backup in every game. At 5-11 and 205 pounds, he's a compact-hitting strong safety who doesn't miss. While he won't push out Tyler Sash from his job, he'll find a spot somewhere on the field in nickel and dime packages.
Watch Out For ... Spievey. He received honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition last year despite coming up with a monster year. He's big, dangerous, and very, very good.
Strength: Production. Over the last two years, there hasn't been much of a pass rush, partly by design, but the secondary has come through anyway. Last year's secondary gave up close to 200 yards per game, but it was fifth in the nation, and first in the Big Ten, in pass efficiency defense and helped the D come up with 23 interceptions.
Weakness
:
Backup experience. There's a little bit of time logged by promising backups like Cato and Prater, but overall the reserves are a bit green. The secondary will likely be counting on two redshirt freshmen, safety Jack Swanson and corner Greg Castillo at some point.
Outlook: This might not be the most talented secondary around, and it's still very young with no senior on the projected two-deep, but the production was phenomenal last year and it should be strong again this year. The Hawkeyes will let teams dink and dunk as much as they want to, but the receivers will get popped big time and there won't be many, if any, big plays deep. The formula worked last year, and it should again.
Rating: 8

Special Teams

Projected Starters
:
The Hawkeyes have a great kicking combination that worked tremendously well last year and should shine once again. Junior Daniel Murray is the main man in the clutch, evidenced by the 31-yarder to beat Penn State, and he has the big leg used on kickoffs and long field goals connecting on 6-of-9 attempts. Sophomore Trent Mossbrucker was a big recruit who was great on short range shots hitting 13-of-15 attempts with a long of 39.

Junior Ryan Donahue went from being a nice directional kicker to a Ray Guy Award semifinalist averaging 41.6 yards per kick with 19 put in side the 20 and 19 forced fair catches. He was actually better as a freshman, putting 24 inside the 20 and forcing 21 fair catches, but he cut down on his touchbacks and was more consistent.

Looking to replace Andy Brodell as the team's top punt returner will likely be Collin Sandeman after averaging six yards per try on five attempts, but the job is open. RB Jewel Hampton had a nice year on kickoff returns averaging 23.3 yards per try, and while WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos averaged 19.8, he's dangerous. He averaged 23.7 yards per attempt two years ago.

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 ... more from the return game. It was good last year, but the coaching staff is making it a goal to get more production. With all the key parts returning, there could be far more pop.
Strength: Donahue. There's a lot to like about the special teams across the board, but Donahue is the star of the show. He's a weapon who has been strong for the last two years and should be fantastic again.
Weakness
:
Kickoff coverage. It would be nice if the placekickers could be counted on every time from inside the 40, but that's nitpicking; they're good. The kickoff coverage was the one big weak spot allowing 22 yards per try.
Outlook: The special teams were solid two years ago, and now they might be the best in the Big Ten with a little bit of improvement. Ryan Donahue is a special punter, the kicking combination of Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker is good, and the return game should be a strength. That's not to say there isn't room to be better, but overall the Hawkeyes should have an edge here in most games.
Rating: 8