Four downs with the D-line
QUICK LOOK BACK: No question the individual and unit numbers were down across the board. The Hawkeyes totaled 21 sacks and 57 tackles for loss in 2010. The five-year averages are 23.2 sacks and 66.2 tackles for loss, so there's no arguing the '10 numbers were down.
Why? Some of it can be explained away with the attention defensive end Adrian Clayborn drew. A few teams gambled and blocked him with a tight end at certain times, but he also faced his share of double teams. Tackles, tight ends and backs were sent his way and his numbers dropped. A complementary rusher at the end position never really emerged. Christian Ballard had moments, but Iowa's mayhem came from the inside, with Karl Klug and Mike Daniels combining for 9.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
Iowa's philosophy also shifted a bit on the outside when linebackers went through a series of injuries. Iowa's ends seemed to concentrate on setting an edge and thinking contain. In the overall scheme, it helped Iowa's defense put up representative numbers.
In 2010, Iowa allowed 3.24 yards a carry and 1,320 overall rushing yards. The five-year averages are 3.34 and 1,479. The scoring defense also was representative. The Hawkeyes allowed 221 points in 2010, 17 points a game. The five-year average 216.8 and 17.02.
In the end, you had a defensive line that didn't put up the mayhem numbers, but you had a defense that was once again among the Big Ten's best. At that point, the Hawkeyes were in funnel mode, thus the DEs attempted to set a hard edge and funnel everything inside.
The D-line was the foundation for this. You can argue that point all you want, but consider the injuries at linebacker with Jeff Tarpinian (four starts), Tyler Nielsen (eight starts, season-ending neck injury) and Jeremiha Hunter (missed one start and slowed with knee injury).
Fatigue was a factor. Iowa lost five games in the fourth quarter last season. Long, sustained TD drives came home to roost in each of the losses. At that point, the Hawkeyes were in survival mode. The D-line was their elite unit and Iowa had to ride it into the ground.
FOURTH DOWN: CONCERNS -- The three big dogs have left the pen. Clayborn, Ballard and Klug were productive players that the rest of the Big Ten had to account for each and every game. Clayborn will be a first-round draft pick. Ballard will be a second-round pick. If Klug runs the 4.67 he ran last spring at Iowa, he will be a draft pick. He might not be a defensive tackle (no talk from NFL teams on Klug playing tackle in the league), but, at 275 with a 4.67, he'll be something.
Of the six players who logged big minutes, tackle Mike Daniels and end Broderick Binns are back. After them, it's newbies, so experience is the major concern here. Depending on who emerges, size also could be a concern. And, yes, Iowa got away with undersized D-tackles during the Mitch King and Matt Kroul days. Those two weren't ideal size, but but were in the NFL last season and they could slug it out with any Big Ten offensive lineman.
Along with the collective 89 starts Clayborn, Ballard and Klug accumulated, Iowa also will be missing three fully matured bodies that spent five years in Chris Doyle's weightroom. Binns and Daniels will be fifth-years, but the other two, whomever they are, will not.
Even though they play different positions, Daniels' emergence in 2010 (four sacks, 11 tackles for loss) pushed Binns out of the starting lineup. Binns started all 13 games in 2009 when he had5.5 sacks and 9.5 TFLs. Last season, he started five games and had no sacks with one tackle for loss.
Binns talked about his season in this post. “My role this year is a lot different than it was last year. I’m a team player. That’s fine. I get in there and do what I can, but there are other guys who are producing and who do play. I’m not disappointed at all.”
The D-line is definitely a hot spot for 2011.
THIRD DOWN -- ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Clayborn, Ballard and Klug are gone. So is Anthony Ferguson, a 6-3, 280-pounder who would've been a redshirt freshman this spring. Ferentz confirmed this in February. Sophomore Martin Hopkins (6-3, 250) is still on the online roster.
Literally and figuratively, the biggest addition is defensive tackle Carl Davis, a 6-5, 295-pounder who'll be a redshirt freshman this fall. He sat out last season as a true freshmen, but at the Iowa practices we were allowed to view, Davis was coached hard and kept in the loop. He might not have been a second-teamer, but Iowa coaches kept him engaged, knowing they might need him as soon as this season.
Donovan Johnson also is a redshirt freshman tackle. At 6-3, 265, he might still be in the "building the body" mode.
Mike Hardy is an interesting prospect. The redshirt freshman is 6-5, 270. He practiced as an end last season, but could project inside or the O-line. There's need on the D-line, so he's probably staying put. Question is end or tackle?
Louis Trinca-Pasat graduated from Chicago's Lane Tech and enrolled last January. He spent 2010 practicing as a tackle. At 6-3, 250, he's very much in development.
True freshman Darian Cooper announced on signing day that he picked the Hawkeyes. He comes with credentials (all-metro, Baltimore metro defensive MVP), with numbers (10 sacks, four forced fumbles his senior year at DeMatha High School) and with a 6-1, 280-pound body that might -- MIGHT -- be built to contribute early. Not a lot of freshmen DL crack the two deep at Iowa (Cody Hundertmark did as a true frosh in 2007), but if Cooper shows in camp that he can handle it, you have to at least be open to the possibility.
SECOND DOWN -- BATTLE BREWING: There are 11 scholarship players and three walk-ons competing for the
two spots after Binns and Daniels. Let's assume those two are locked in. Daniels, there's no question. He answered all questions last year and then some with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Binns' 2010 started with a summer OWI and just sort of flatlined from there. The highlight was the interception return for a score that tied the Arizona game. Binns is in, but not as "in" as Daniels, if that makes any sense. He might have some proving to do in camp or he'll face a hostile takeover.
So, two spots and 14 bodies.
Tackle (Listed in order of likelihood)
Steve Bigach -- The 6-3, 272-pound junior has put in the time in the weightroom. He came to Iowa at 220 pounds in the 2008 recruiting class. Fifty-two pounds later, he's put himself in position for a job. Had a sack in mop-up time against Michigan State last season, but he was the fourth tackle behind Klug, Ballard and Daniels. The high side could be a Kroul type.
Carl Davis -- It'll be interesting to see if he's still in the 295 range. When he signed, Iowa coaches thought he could trim down to the 280 area. Sat out while redshirting last season, Davis was coached up. D-line coach Rick Kaczenski made sure he was fully engaged in practice. That tells me coaches believe they'll need him soon, as in maybe this season.
Thomas Nardo -- The walk-on senior is 6-3 227. According to the e-mails released in the wake of rhabdomyolysis, Nardo missed a least a week of school, so may have been among those stricken. Nardo saw some time late last season and made a play or two against Ohio State.
Donovan Johnson -- If his winter goes well, Johnson, a redshirt freshman, could be a surprise inside. Might be closer to 6-1 than 6-3. He's sort of a Mike Daniels starter kit.
Mike Hardy -- At 6-5, 270, the redshirt freshman might have the body to move inside. He also might have the athleticism to work at end, where Iowa likely needs him to be.
Louis Trinca-Pasat -- Remember seeing the redshirt freshman play on the inside during practices last fall. At 6-3, 250, he's still working his way up to tackle weight.
Darian Cooper -- Again, not likely for a true freshman to break into a rotation on the inside, but at 6-2, 280, Cooper might be able to handle it and Iowa might need him.
Scott Covert -- Listed at 6-2, 245, the sophomore is probably still developing. He was among second-tier D-linemen at Insight Bowl practices last fall.
Casey Krieter -- The 6-3, 250-pound sophomore is a walk-on. He might be more of a long snapper. He stepped in last fall when Andrew Schulze was injured.
Martin Hopkins -- The 6-3, 250-pound sophomore might still be in development.
Where do you draw the line for realistic contributors (serious contenders for playing time)? After Nardo? Iowa has played three tackles, but if Kaczenski and Norm Parker get what they want out of two, and they stay healthy, they ride those two. Last season, Daniels' rise changed that. In '09, it was Klug and Ballard. King and Kroul took most if not ever snap from 2006-08.
Lebron Daniel -- The 6-2, 250-pounder is a fifth-year senior. He spent the last two seasons spelling Clayborn. Norm Parker started talking him up two years ago. Daniel has seen a share of playing time, but nothing consistent. This is his one year to show what he can do. He probably has the inside track to starter opposite Binns.
Dominic Alvis -- At 6-4, 240, the sophomore might still be in developmental stage. Terrific all-around athlete at Logan-Magnolia, Alvis could punch his way to extended playing time. He's had a few setbacks with injuries.
Joe Forgy -- The 6-4, 255-pounder is a senior, and this is his best chance to have an impact on the roster. Also, he could find a role on special teams. Transferred from Ellsworth Community College.
Hardy -- It'll be interesting to see where he lines up this spring. As the roster stands, he's probably needed more at end.
Joe Gaglione -- The 6-4, 242-pounder missed all of '09 with a shoulder injury. He returned last season and saw some mop-up duty. Too hard to tell where his progress is.
Who's the third DE? Probably Alvis. He'll have to prove himself as legit to put a claim in on some playing time. That will, obviously, decided whether or not there's a rotation.
2010 -- 3.24 ypc; 1,320 total yards
2009 -- 3.49 ypc; 1,607 total yards
2008 -- 3.08 ypc; 1,272 total yards
2007 -- 3.21 ypc; 1,459 total yards
2006 -- 3.62 ypc; 1,737 total yards
Averages -- 3.34 ypc; 1,479 total yards
2010 -- 21
2009 -- 30
2008 -- 17
2007 -- 27
2006 -- 21
Average -- 23.2
2010 -- 57
2009 -- 73
2008 -- 67
2007 -- 66
2006 -- 68
Average -- 66.2
2010 -- 17.0 ppg; 221 total points
2009 -- 15.4 ppg; 200 total points
2008 -- 13.0 ppg; 169 total points
2007 -- 17.3 ppg; 225 total points
2006 -- 22.4 ppg; 269 total points
Averages -- 17.02 ppg; 216.8 total points
FIRST DOWN -- "On Iowa" prediction for 2011 season: Let's take a shot at a two deep:
RE -- Lebron Daniel, Joe Forgy (Daniel gets the shot he's been waiting five years for. Ball's in his court.)
DT -- Mike Daniel, Thomas Nardo (Enough here for a rotation? Daniels' uncommon strength will pull this unit during the last month or so of winter workouts.)
DT -- Steve Bigach, Carl Davis (Hard to put a border around what Davis could be or do for 2011. He could breakthrough for some real playing time here. He also could stall at No. 3 tackle, which would likely get him some PT.)
LE -- Broderick Binns, Dominic Alvis (Can Binns find the magic from '09? Is Alvis ready to be a No. 3 DE? This unit has some proving to do. It will be part of the reason why you won't entirely enjoy reading Phil Steele's deal in about a month.)
Illinois -- The Fighting Illini were bitten hard by the NFL early departure bug, with junior DT Corey Liuget making the run for the money after the Illini's bowl victory over Baylor. Rating -- Second-team. Akeem Spence (6-1, 305) had four tackles for loss as a freshman starter last year. Michael Buchanan (6-6, 225) had 5.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore.
Indiana -- The Hoosiers return three starters, including tackles Adam Replogle and Mick Mentzer. Also, end Darius Johnson will be back. Rating -- Second-team. Johnson made an impact last season with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Mentzer had 4.0 tackles for loss; Replogle had 3.5.
Iowa -- Iowa is pretty much putting it back together on the DL for 2011. The Hawkeyes will build around tackle Mike Daniels and end Broderick Binns. Rating -- Honorable mention. After leaning so heavily on Ballard, Clayborn and Klug, the bill comes due this year.
Michigan -- The Wolverines will build around DT Mike Martin (6-2, 299) and senior DE Ryan Van Bergen (6-6, 283), who had 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season. Rating -- Second-team. The Michigan defense has nowhere to go but up, and new DC Greg Mattison, along with new DL coach Jerry Montgomery (former Hawkeye DT) will provide an immediate boost.
Michigan State -- The Spartans return four players who've started including junior DT Jerel Worthy, who had eight tackles for loss and four sacks. End Tyler Hoover had 3.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Rating -- First-team. The Spartans D-line will be a strength. The rotation MSU has used will payoff this season.
Minnesota -- The Gophers took a hit when coach Jerry Kill announced in January that tackle Jewhan Edwards was no longer in school. Edwards led Minnesota last season with 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Rating -- Honorable mention. That's a blow for a team that finished last in the Big Ten in rush defense and that allowed 33.0 points a game.
Nebraska -- Jared Crick was a second-team all-American in 2010. Fellow tackle Baker Steinkuhler was honorable mention all-Big 12. End Cameron Meredith was a second-team all-Big 12 selection. Rating -- Silver football. The Huskers have the makings of an elite D-line.
Northwestern -- Here's what Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told the NU official site about his D-line: "They're running as well as they have since I've been here. We've got explosive athletes, we've got good size, Niko Mafuli might be in the best shape of his career right now. Brian Arnfelt to this point is probably having the best off-season of anybody in that group. We had to fix Jack's shoulder (Jack DiNardo), so he'll be out for spring. Quentin Williams is no longer playing baseball, he's already up to 270 pounds (from 240 something). Davon (Custis) is up over 250. So that young group is starting to really mature, as they typically do. Vince (Browne) is Vince. He's steady Eddie. You could set your watch on his work ethic and his commitment. But needs to double that total. Has to take that sack total and double it." Rating -- Second-team. Browne leads the way. The senior had 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season.
Ohio State -- Mammoth tackle Johnathan Hankins (6-3, 335) has potential on the inside. End Nathan Williams and tackle John Simon are experienced veterans who have impacted Big Ten games. The Buckeyes have three four-star recruits battling over the other end spot. Rating -- First-team. Simon is undersized and over-motored.
Penn State -- If they can stay healthy, the trio of Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Devon Still will give the Nittany Lions a more-than-solid foundation. Only Still made it through last season in good health. Rating -- Honorable mention. Penn State has upperclassmen in place, but one or more need to have a breakout season.
Purdue -- The Boilers return two starters -- DT Bruce Gaston and DE Gerald Gooden. Gaston had 4.5 tackles for loss; Gooden had four. Junior tackle Kawann Short but he had all-Big Ten numbers, finishing fourth in the league in sacks (6.0) and sixth in tackles for loss (12.5). Rating -- Second-team. With Short and Gaston on the inside, the Boilers should have an easier time replacing all-everything Ryan Kerrigan.Wisconsin -- The Badgers return three starters, including tackles Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout. End Louis Nzegwu also returns. As far as depth goes, sophomore Ethan Hemer has made a few starts. Rating -- End J.J. Watt decided to do the NFL thing, and so the Badgers have a giant hole to fill that they didn't anticipate at the end of the season. Yes, just one player, but was second in the league with 21 tackles for loss and seven sacks.