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Home / Four Downs — The Defensive Line (post-spring)
Four Downs — The Defensive Line (post-spring)
FOURTH DOWN - What did we learn this spring?
You already know Iowa's defensive line. You watched last season as the foursome grew into its own.
Senior tackle Carl Davis (6-5, 315) cashed in on four years of work in the weightroom and stayed healthy. He went from a player who played maybe 50 snaps a season to one who played 50 a game. Senior tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat almost quit in December 2011 because of nagging injuries and frustration will begin his third year as starter this fall.
Defensive ends Drew Ott and Mike Hardy are less established, but they'll be second-year starters this fall. No, they're not premium pass rushers, but Iowa coaches know this and don't ask them to be players they aren't. The duo set an edge on first and second down and, most times, come out in on third down in favor of the 'Raider” package, which this spring included six defensive backs with safety Nico Law chipping in at linebacker.
You even know the No. 3 DT, junior Darian Cooper, fairly well. No. 3 DE? You know junior Nate Meier, and he might be the guy there.
THIRD DOWN - The importance of knowing who you are, what you can do
Defensive ends and sacks is pretty much the kind of football we all understand. DEs are usually the sack leaders for teams. They're oftentimes the fastest of the big athletes on the field.
The spread offense is the kind of football we're all beginning to understand. Along with more elusive quarterbacks, offenses are throwing passes in two seconds or less.
And so now, you see a segmented personnel approach. Last year, Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker revealed the 'Raider,” a third-down package designed to put more speed on the field. Sacks are one of the thoughts with this defense, but it's not the only. Chaos is the main theme. With three linemen who rush from a standing position, the quarterbacks is kept guessing on who's rushing and who's dropping in coverage.
Hardy is a 6-5, 280-pounder. He knows he's designed to set the edge and stop the run on first and second downs. Pass rush isn't his strength, but he continually works it in practice.
'I know what my strengths are,” Hardy said. 'I know I'm not the quickest guy. I'm big and I can set an edge. I use that as one of my strengths. I know I'm not going to be a quick rusher off the edge, so I just need to work with my abilities.”
Couple of thoughts here: 1) There's more than one way to rush a QB. In the 2000s, Iowa defenses under Norm Parker were able to rely on four down linemen to provide pass rush. 2) Without edge pressure, Phil Parker reshaped the defense after the 2012 season. Iowa still wants to stop the run, so it goes heavy defense on first and second down. Parker and staff aren't going to put players in positions where they know they won't physically be able to succeed. So, hello to the Raider and its continuing evolution.
SECOND DOWN - Who said what?
'We're playing with guys that in a lot of programs would be defensive tackles. Mike Hardy was a defensive tackle a year ago. We moved him out because of our needs. We're playing with guys who, No. 1, take care of their job. They have a run responsibility. They have a key they're going to read. They have a certain way they're going to take on blocks and get off blocks. That's the No. 1 thing. On third downs or passing downs, we, as many or most teams do in the NFL and now most teams are doing in college football, you have a special package you're going to put in the game where you're trying to get speed on the field and so forth, and our package was very productive for us last year, and we feel pretty good about it.” - Iowa DL coach Reese Morgan on what he's looking for from the defensive end position
'I recall vividly one of our earlier scrimmages where we did a period called ‘tempo,' where we're going against the no-huddle group. Carl's going to be in there 10 plays. He said, ‘Coach, after four, I'll tap my head or raise my hand, and you can get somebody in for me.' After four plays, he's OK. After six plays, he's OK. Eight plays. He kind of looked to the sideline, and I just smiled at him and waved and kept going and going. That was the defining moment for me that, ‘hey, I can go out, and I can play 60, 70 snaps a game.' Now, we're probably playing him more than we need to. - Morgan on the development of DT Carl Davis
'Drew Ott, 95, he's out there. He doesn't say much, but he's extremely tough. This kid thinks he's a lot better than he really is, which is really a great testament to his high school program and his parents and what he's hearing here. But he's a pickup truck. Reliable, he starts every day, he's tough, he works hard, you can load him up, he's not afraid of anything. You can take him on the interstate. You can take him on a dirt road. That's the kind of guy he is.” - Morgan on defensive end Drew Ott
FIRST DOWN - Summer cliffhanger
Depth at defensive end needs development. Meier is a third-year player and looked more 'defensive end” this spring than the 6-2, 244-pounder has during a career that's seen him try running back and linebacker.
Can Riley McMinn (6-7, 265) punch in here? He's missed the majority of the last two seasons with injuries (sports hernia, shoulder). Then, there's juco transfer Torey Hendrick, who, according to HawkeyeReport.com, committed to Iowa in January. The 6-4, 225-pounder hasn't signed with Iowa, so where he stands officially isn't certain.
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