MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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IOWA CITY — More than a few law firms have sprung from the University of Iowa.
With one of the most respected law schools in the country, that’s not surprising. But there’s another one forming at Iowa that might be a bit of a surprise: Nelson, Nelson, Hesse and Brincks. Or is it Nelson, Nelson, Brincks and Hesse? Something else, maybe?
The Hawkeyes’ defensive ends haven’t figured out the exact order just yet.
“With Nelson and Nelson, it’s easy,” Anthony Nelson said. “We’re still trying to get Brincks and Hesse in there. We’ll come up with something. I think we’re trying to have it ring, come off the tongue nicely, and see which way sounds the best.”
And hey, even Coach Kirk Ferentz is on board.
“I’ll tell you, with their GPAs, that’s a realistic goal for all those guys,” Ferentz said with a smile on Tuesday. “They might move to the front of the class. They are smart guys, really smart guys.”
OK, so maybe Iowa defensive ends Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson, Anthony Nelson and Sam Brincks aren’t in law school. (At least not yet — there are plenty of former Hawkeyes who became lawyers.) But what the Nelsons did against Miami (Ohio) and what Hesse has shown over the last year suggests something serious.
Anthony and Matt combined for 10 total tackles on Saturday while holding down the edges following Hesse’s exit with a hamstring injury. Matt, in his first career start, had four of those tackles and a fumble recovery — one of two forced by Anthony, whose first game as a Hawkeye has been well-documented. Hesse is coming off his first season in which he finished with 44 tackles, two sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown against Nebraska. He only played the first few minutes of the game, recovered a Jack Hockaday-forced fumble and returned it 28 yards on the play in which he was injured. Brincks recovered the other Anthony-forced fumble.
Hesse’s status for Saturday’s game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium (6:30 p.m., BTN) still is to be determined. Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night that Hesse is the “farthest away” injury-wise, and might not be able to play at all.
The Nelsons specifically, in the absence of Hesse, showed Ferentz something Saturday.
“We came into the game feeling like we had the potential to have three good defensive ends, and then we’ll work to build on the depth. Brincks has done some good things, too,” Ferentz said. “But those three guys (Nelson, Nelson and Hesse) are clearly at one level right now. If Parker can’t go, that means we’re down to two at that level. We’re really pleased with the progress of all three of those players.”
It’s purely coincidental that two young men with the same last name happened to have such an impact on the same game, but it’s a coincidence the Hawkeyes justifiably enjoy.
Matt reminded everyone Tuesday they’re not actually related — though they joke they’re cousins — and the pair thoroughly enjoy playing alongside one another. They push each other like “family.”
“I think it’s awesome to play with Matt because of the kind of guy he is and the way he’s helped me along the way,” Anthony Nelson said. “I was just trying to play to the level I know Parker plays at, because Parker’s a really good player. When he went out, I focused on trying to fill that gap as best I could and trying to do what I know Parker would do when he’s out there.”
Position groups end up tight-knit in most cases, and that’s certainly happened with the defensive ends at Iowa. In the two years Matt has been on the team (he’s a redshirt sophomore) and Anthony’s one (he’s a redshirt freshman), they’ve fully embraced the “do your part” philosophy that defines the program, and go out of their way to support each other — publicly and privately.
Now they just have to embrace a law firm name.
“It’s got a ring to it. We’re trying to add Parker and Sam Brincks in there, just to even it out and make it more official. We’re working on it,” Matt Nelson said. “Anthony is a great player, and Parker is as well. We’re all just trying to do our part on the defense.”
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