A closer look: Iowa defensive line

Let's pretend the 'Full Nelson' question was never asked

Defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson poses for a photo at Media Day at the Kenyon Practice Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, August 6, 2016.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson poses for a photo at Media Day at the Kenyon Practice Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, August 6, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)


DE — 1a. Parker Hesse, so., 6-3, 250; 1a. Matt Nelson, so., 6-8, 282; 3. Anthony Nelson, #fr., 6-7, 253; 4. Sam Brincks, so., 6-5, 270; 5. Chauncey Golston, fr., 6-5, 227; 6. Brandon Simon, fr., 6-1, 236; 7. Michael Slater, #fr., 6-2, 285; 8. Romeo McKnight, fr., 6-5, 235; 9. Austin Schulte, fr., 6-4, 250

DT — 1a. Jaleel Johnson, sr., 6-4, 310; 1a. Nathan Bazata, jr., 6-2, 285; 3. Faith Ekakitie, sr., 6-3, 290; 4. Daniel Gaffey, jr., 6-2, 285; 5. Cedric Lattimore, fr., 6-5, 260; 6. Garret Jansen, #fr., 6-2, 270; 7. Jacob Giese, #fr., 6-3, 280; 8. Jake Hulett, jr., 6-3, 285; 9. Brady Reiff, #fr., 6-3, 250


The starting four have seemed to be pretty well set since spring, with DTs Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata and DE Parker Hesse returning as starters and DE Matt Nelson earning a spot during spring practice.

The No. 3 at each position also is solid. Senior DT Faith Ekakitie earned more playing time as 2015 went along and will rotate. Redshirt freshman DE Anthony Nelson showed pass rush skills this spring and has built a trust level after putting on 30 pounds in the offseason.

Beyond the top 6? That remains a search. Don’t overlook true freshman DT Cedric Lattimore and DE Chauncey Golston. They’re from East English Village Prep in Detroit, Mich., which happens to be Desmond King’s alma mater.

This group was dinged going into and early on in camp. Redshirt freshmen Michael Slater (surgery, undisclosed) and Brady Reiff (lower leg) were among the injured. Also, freshmen DEs Romeo McKnight and Austin Schulte are coming off ACL repairs in high school and weren’t in uniform for the Aug. 13 scrimmage.


You know, if Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson line up together at defensive end, that’s a “Full Nelson,” right? (By the way, they are unrelated. Matt prepped at Cedar Rapids Xavier; Anthony at Waukee.)


OK, let’s strike “Full Nelson” from the record. No one is cool with that. Let’s pretend this paragraph never happened.

“That’s not what we’re going to say at all,” Anthony Nelson said when asked about the “Full Nelson” possibility.

But hey, Matt is 6-8 and Anthony is 6-7. Matt is No. 96 and Anthony is No. 98. Coaches do mix them up occasionally.

“I think so, especially coaches who call us by our last names,” Anthony said. “We both look and figure out later who the coaches are really talking to. If they use the last name, we both look.”


To say Hesse’s demeanor on the field is calm is a massive understatement. He’s a level-headed, cool customer. That’s something he said he learned when he played quarterback for Waukon High School in 2013.

“If something went wrong playing quarterback, my attitude was always like, ‘OK, let’s just regroup, everybody get back in the huddle, next play, just forget it, here’s the next play, here’s what we’ve got to do,” said Hesse, who had three tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception return for a TD in his first season as a starter. “That’s how I approach things even now that I play D-line. I don’t get worked up when things go wrong, I’m more like ‘Let’s forget it, next play, because we can’t control anything that already happened.’ I’d almost say I’m more soft-spoken on the field than I am just walking around.”

There is some strategy here. Getting psyched up requires burning energy. Hesse came to Iowa around 200 pounds. He’s now listed at 250, up 15 pounds from last year.

“When you gain as much weight as I have, I have to save as much energy as I can,” he said.

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