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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.