Iowa defensive line: A Closer Look
No. 1s – Tackles: Carl Davis, jr., 6-5, 310; Louis Trinca-Pasat, jr., 6-3, 290. Ends: Dominic Alvis, sr., 6-4, 265; Drew Ott, so., 6-4, 245. No. 2s – Tackles: Darian Cooper, so., 6-2, 280; Jaleel Johnson, #fr., 6-4, 307. Ends: Mike Hardy, jr., 6-5, 270; Riley McMinn, so., 6-7, 245 OR Faith Ekakitie, #fr., 6-3, 290.
Carl Davis is a junior DT for the Hawkeyes. The Iowa staff has been waiting for the 6-5, 310-pounder to hit since he arrived from Sterling Heights, Mich., in 2010. He suffered a dislocated kneecap (twice), but now has been injury-free and is kind of the talk of Iowa's D-line. He earned preseason second-team all-Big Ten from Phil Steele's "College Football Preview." The fact that Davis has a short resume -- 16 career tackles and no starts -- needs highlighting. "He continues to be a guy who hasn't started a game, who's very talented, has put in a great amount of time," D-line coach Reese Morgan said. "He's got a ways to go, but he can be as good as he wants to be. I think he can be very, very good for us." DT Louis Trinca-Pasat returned to the practice field this fall after missing spring recovering from a torn rotator cuff that needed surgery. Senior Dominic Alvis is the only certainty at defensive end. He has 5.5 career sacks. Sophomore Drew Ott seems like the other defensive end, but he faces competition from junior Mike Hardy and sophomore Riley McMinn.
The No. 2s
How undecided is defensive end? Alvis and Ott took all of the reps with the No. 1 defense last weekend. Redshirt freshman Faith Ekakitie, Hardy and sophomore Nate Meier were with the second group. Meier remains a player of high interest. He's listed at 6-2, 235. Visually, he stands out as clearly the smallest prospect Iowa has on the D-line. Iowa doesn't have any cutesy roles for its D-line, so he's full service. "He's kind of like a cat," Morgan said. "He lands on his feet. He's athletic, he can run. He's undersized, obviously. He's kind of a poor man's Matt Roth. He's a smaller guy, not as big and as strong as Matt was, but he's a guy you just don't know." McMinn fought off injuries for much of 2012. He sat out last weekend's scrimmage with an undisclosed injury. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said he should return to practice soon. Sophomore DT Darian Cooper made a start last season. With the emergence of Davis, he's listed as the back-up to Trinca-Pasat. Ekakitie and DT Jaleel Johnson are twin big rigs. Johnson will receive time in rotation. Ekakitie has a few more bodies to climb over. Hardy is a utility player who saw time at tackle and end last year. So far, Iowa has four solid bodies inside, so Hardy has been installed as a No. 2 DE. Sophomore DT Dean Tsopnanides (6-2, 265) picked up a sack with the second team during the scrimmage. Sophomore DE Melvin Spears will be fighting to see the rotation.
The NoobsRedshirt freshman DE Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara is listed at 235 and probably projects for playing time a year down the road. True freshman DTs Nathan Bazata and Brant Gressel don't look like the kind of D-linemen Iowa used to bring in, except for one factor. Bazata and Gressel are listed at 6-2 and probably aren't. That doesn't mean they're undersized. Bazata is a fully loaded 280. Solid build. Gressel also is 280 and possesses the kind of lower body that can make a living as a 1 technique in the Big Ten. Of the walk-ons, junior Wil Rathjen had moments in Iowa's scrimmage. The 6-3, 265 pounder might not see rotation time, but he could perhaps help on a special teams unit.