2010 Iowa Preview – Defense
Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
Posted Jun 30, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Iowa Hawkeye Defense

Iowa Hawkeyes

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 Iowa Preview | 2010 Iowa Offense
- 2010 Iowa Defense | 2010 Iowa Depth Chart
- Iowa Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: The Norm Parker defense continues to work. The pass rush is fine, but nothing special, and the secondary doesn't gamble and keeps the big plays to a bare minimum … and the results continue to be terrific. Everyone hits, everyone goes full-tilt all the time, and everyone goes for the takeaway and gets around the ball. While there are a few key losses in linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, and corner Amari Spievey, everyone else is back from the nation's tenth ranked defense including All-America playmakers Adrian Clayborn on the end and Tyler Sash at safety. The reserves are a bit green and there will be major problems if injuries strike, but if everything is working, this should once again be one of the nation's top defenses.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jeremiha Hunter, 89
Sacks: Adrian Clayborn, 11.5
Interceptions: Tyler Sash, 6

Star of the defense: Senior DE Adrian Clayborn
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior LB Jeff Tarpinian
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Micah Hyde
Best pro prospect: Clayborn
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Clayborn, 2) SS Tyler Sash, 3) LB Jeremiha Hunter
Strength of the defense: Experience, Pass Defense
Weakness of the defense: Proven Reserves, Tackles For Loss

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: For some reason, senior Adrian Clayborn is still playing college football. The 6-4, 285-pounder would've likely been a first round draft pick this year and is being listed among the top three seniors for the 2011 NFL Draft. With a tremendous combination of size, quickness, and pass rushing ability, he came up with 70 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and 20 tackles for loss highlighted on a national scale by a dominant performance against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl with nine solo stops and two sacks. The first-team All-Big Ten star had some issues this offseason with an issue involving a cab driver, but everything has been cleared up and he should be one of the league's dominant figures. He's a 4-3 end in college but can be a 3-4 at the next level.

Back on the other side of Clayborn, and flying in under the radar, is junior Broderick Binns , a 6-2, 261-pound veteran who came up with 63 tackles with six sacks and ten tackles for loss. Great at knocking down passes, he led the team with nine batted down balls. The skill and talent are there for the honorable mention All-Big Ten performer to be a special pass rusher with a great motor and good quick step, and with all the attention paid to Clayborn on the other side, he should flourish.

6-4, 270-pound senior Karl Klug is the next great Iowa defensive tackle. An honorable mention All-Big Ten run stopper, he came up with 65 tackles with four sacks and 13 tackles for loss. While he's not huge, he's extremely active in the interior and has gotten better as he has added more weight over the last few years. He came to Iowa around 240 pounds and now he's filled out and ready to turn in a special final year.

Senior Christian Ballard is a big end who bulked up to take on the tackle job. A playmaker from his true freshman season, the 6-5, 297-pound he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after making 54 tackles with 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. He's more of a 3-4 end than a true tackle, even after bulking up, and he'll be a steady starter who becomes a strong presence on the inside once again.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Mike Daniels is a smallish, quick tackle who has the potential to become a great interior pass rusher working behind Christian Ballard. While he's squatty 6-1, 275-pounder, he's tough and has the potential to be a strong run defender coming off a ten tackles, 1.5 sack season as a key part of the rotation.

Junior Lebron Daniel came through with a good offseason after seeing a limited role last year making two tackles. The 6-2, 250-pounder played in every game, but he didn't do much and now he'll serve as the understudy behind Adrian Clayborn. He's a high character player who gives a great effort, but now he needs to show he can play.

6-3, 277-pound junior Thomas Nardo earned a leadership award last year, but he has yet to do anything on the field. A nice recruit in 2007, he has yet to see the field, but he worked his way up the depth chart this offseason and now will be a key backup behind Karl Klug. He's quick, but he has to hold up against the run.

Watch Out For … Binns. Clayborn is the All-America, magazine cover guy, but Binns is starting to grow into a major playmaker, too. He might not be the NFL prospect that Clayborn is, but he's about to blow up stat-wise as a pass rusher. Teams will have to start paying attention to him, too.
Strength: Experience and activity. All four starters return to a line that played as well as any in the nation last year, and now it should be a bigger rock against the run and even more active into the backfield. While the line was just okay when it came to tackles for loss, it was able to generate pressure from all four spots.
Weakness: The reserves. Iowa always seems to pluck guys from nowhere to produce at a high level on the line, but this year's No. 2 D line is extremely green. Daniel is promising and Daniels has gotten his feet wet, but that's about it for the developed depth.
Outlook: This might be the best defensive front in America as long as the starting foursome remains healthy. Clayborn is the star to build around, while Klug, Ballard, and Binns are all going to be all-stars. Good luck consistently running on this very active, very good group, but the one flaw might be the rotation. The backups have to prove early on that they can play.
Unit Rating: 9


Projected Starters: Pat Angerer might have been the best linebacker in America, but he didn't get the publicity of Rolando McClain. Gone are the 145 tackles and the leadership from the middle, and in steps senior Jeff Tarpinian after a terrific spring. Very smart, the former safety earned All-Big Ten honors in the classroom, and now the 6-3, 238-pounder has the spotlight on him after making 20 tackles last year working on the weakside. The 2005 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year as an option quarterback, he was originally a safety and now has to bring his smarts and his athleticism to become a top tackler.

The new star of the lowa linebacking corps will be Jeremiha Hunter , a 6-2, 235-pound senior who was a dominant special teamer at times and a tough playmaker on the weakside finishing second on the team with 89 tackles with an interception and two recovered fumbles. A superstar recruit, he lived up to his potential over the last few seasons showing off tremendous speed and toughness for the position. While he has to use his skills to be more of a pass rusher, and he could stand to be more dangerous in pass coverage, he's an all-star who'll get plenty of national attention.

Trying to replace A.J. Edds on the outside will be junior Tyler Nielson , a decent veteran who has been a regular on the Academic All-Big Ten team and saw a little time last year in every game finishing with seven tackles, mostly as a special teamer. While he's nowhere near the talent that Edds was, the 2006 Gatorade Iowa Football player of the Year was a good recruit with the 6-4, 235-pound size to go along with the smarts to handle the fulltime job. He'll be a stat-sheet filler.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Troy Johnson got a start last season and was terrific against Minnesota making 11 tackles with a sack. Little used the rest of the way, he finished the year making 20 stops, and now the 6-2, 235-pound senior will work in the rotation on the weakside and could play in the middle if needed. While he's quick, he has to show he can do more against the pass.

A special teamer so far, 6-0, 232-pound Bruce Davis also saw a little time in the defensive rotation finishing the year with 14 tackles with a forced fumble. A good leader who could shine with a bigger role, he'll start out working behind Jeff Tarpinian in the middle and could see time on the strongside.

6-2, 236-pound Ross Petersen was moved to tight end and moved back to linebacker, and now the walk-on will work on the outside behind Tyler Nielsen. Very athletic and very active, he'll have a high motor to get all over the field, but he'll mostly be a special teamer and an emergency option.

Watch Out For … Tarpinian. He's not going to be Angerer, but because of the way the defense works he'll make a ton of tackles and will be a strong stat producer. Can he be the new all-star who leads the front seven? The chances will be there as long as he can stay healthy.
Strength: The defensive line. Yeah, the linebackers are going to be good, especially Hunter, but their lives are made immeasurably easier by having a dominant front four to work behind. The linebackers are free to make a ton of plays, and they take advantage.
Weakness: Proven reserves. Replacing Angerer and Edds (and their combined 223 stops) will be hard enough, and coming up with top backups will be almost as hard. There are plenty of try-hard, high motor types, but there will be some big concerns if injuries strike.
Outlook: The linebackers have been outstanding over the last few seasons, and while Hunter will be an all-star, the key to the team's defense should be the play and the emergence of Tarpinian. A good rotation needs to be developed right away and the backups have to produce when they get their chances. The stats will be better than the talent.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Junior Tyler Sash went from being a good-hitting safety in need of a little polish to an All-America playmaker who finished third on the team making 85 tackles with six interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss. Extremely clutch and great when with the ball in his hands, he has amassed a whopping 350 career return yards on his 11 picks. On the short list for the Lott Trophy as one of the nation's top defensive backs, his reputation is quickly growing. At 6-1 and 210 pounds he's a big strong safety, hits like a ton of bricks, and has uncanny instincts, but he has to keep himself on the field after having problems this offseason with a shoulder injury.

Senior Brett Greenwood isn't all that flashy, but he's a steady free safety who has been around long enough as the starter over the last few years to become an all-star. The 6-0, 200-pounder made 55 tackles with three picks earning second-team All-Big Ten honors, and he should get an even bigger profile this year even with all the attention paid to Tyler Sash. The former walk-on isn't an elite athlete, and he has been dinged up with a shoulder problem, but he doesn't miss a stop and he's always doing something positive. He's a leader for the veteran Hawkeye secondary.

5-11, 180-pound junior Shaun Prater went into last season expected to be a nice backup, but he ended up starting in ten games making 41 tackles with two picks and eight broken up passes. A smart player who doesn't take too many chances and isn't afraid to hit, Prater is becoming a physical all-around corner who'll have to be the No. 1 cover-man with Amari Spievey gone.

With Spievey leaving open one corner job, sophomore Micah Hyde needs to step up and become consistent force on the right side. At 6-1 and 185 pounds he has great size and excellent speed and quickness, but he only made eight tackles last year in his limited action. The star high school quarterback has the smarts along with the athleticism to handle the job, and he should be a good one with a little time.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jordan Bernstine has been a considered a possible starter ever since joining the team as a big-time prospect and a Parade All-American, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. A shoulder injury kept him down a few years ago, and an ankle injury ruined his 2009 after coming into fall camp as the main man at one corner job. If he's healthy, he's one of the team's top prospects with 5-11, 205-pound size, cut-on-a-dime quickness, and good tackling skills. On the plus side, the injuries have given him an extra year of eligibility, and now he'll get two seasons to find a role.

Working where needed at either safety spot, but likely to see most of his time at free safety, is Jack Swanson , a 5-11, 200-pound sophomore who got a little time in past year making five tackles as a reserve and special teamer. While he's not huge at 5-11 and 200 pounds, he can scoot and he can bring the big hit when he gets a head of steam.

Sophomore Greg Castillo is a promising young prospect who made four tackles as a freshman. The 5-11, 180-pounder will work behind Shaun Prater and could end up seeing time as a nickel or dime defender to get his quickness and hitting ability on the field. He might not be a starter at corner, but he'll see more time.

Watch Out For … the right corner job. Everyone will try to stay away from Prater early on until Hyde proves himself, but it could end up being Bernstine at the job if he can finally stay healthy. Either way, the Hawkeyes have good potential here, but they need someone to take advantage of the opportunities when the chances are there.
Strength: Production. The Iowa secondary has been a brick wall over the last three seasons as one of the best in the nation in pass efficiency defense while coming up with plenty of picks. After taking the ball away 23 times in 2008, the defense picked off 21 last year. With three returning starters, there likely won't be much of a drop off.
Weakness: Backup safety. Considering Sash and Greenwood are ultra-physical and already have shoulder problems, there might be a wee bit of a concern that there's no experience whatsoever waiting in the wings. Outside of Bernstine, the backup corner situation isn't much stronger.
Outlook: It's not like the Iowa secondary isn't beatable. It might have finished fourth in the nation in pass defense and third in pass efficiency defense, but it takes a desperate effort to produce big yards. When focused and with everything working, the secondary can be stifling, and if everyone is healthy and if Hyde can shine, this will once again be a brilliant group.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The kicking job will be up in the air all season long with the hot leg getting the call. Senior Daniel Murray connected on 19-of-26 field goals last year, but he missed short range shots from 28 and 22 yards out and was inconsistent this offseason. Known mostly for hitting the 31-yarder to beat an undefeated Penn State two years ago, he has a good enough leg to attempt anything from 50 yards and in.

Sophomore Trent Mossbrucker was a big recruit a few years ago who was solid from short range hitting 13-of-15 attempts, but he didn't try anything from deep. He has yet to show any consistency beyond 40 yards in practice, but he'll get his chance to unseat Murray from the job.

Senior Ryan Donahue started off his career as a nice directional kicker and turned into a bomber. A big kicker, he hangs it up high forcing 19 fair catches to go along with 27 kicks put inside the 20 and with 12 blasts of more than 50 yards including a 73-yarder against Northwestern. He's a weapon who earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and should be among the Big Ten's top punters once again.

WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is one of the nation's elite kickoff returners averaging 31.5 yards per pop including a 99-yard touchdown. Teams will try to kick away from him, but the Hawkeyes will do whatever is needed to get the ball in his hands. Fellow wideout Colin Sandeman was decent on punt returns, but wasn't special averaging nine yards per try. He's reliable and consistent, but he could stand to break a few big ones here and there.

Watch Out For … the kicking situation. This is a really, really, really big deal considering so many Iowa games are going to be close. The kicking game was certainly fine, but five of the seven missed field goals turned out to be a big deal. The placekicking has to be rock-solid.
Strength: Donohue and Johnson-Koulianos. The Hawkeyes have one of the nation's top punters and top kick returners, and these two will make a difference in close games. To have a punter like Donohue makes life for the defense a lot easier.
Weakness: Donohue's consistency. Missing a deep shot here or there isn't going to be a big deal, but he has to be automatic inside 45 yards.
Outlook: The Hawkeye special teams are going to be fantastic as long as the kicking situation is settled (and it's not like it was that bad). Donohue is fantastic, the return game is great, and the coverage teams are outstanding allowing just 18.4 yards per kickoff return and 5.7 yards per punt return.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2010 Iowa Preview | 2010 Iowa Offense
- 2010 Iowa Defense | 2010 Iowa Depth Chart
- Iowa Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006