IOWA CITY — The first question Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan fielded Tuesday was on defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz announced last week that Nixon, a sophomore junior college transfer from Iowa Western, isn’t eligible for the 2018 season and would take an academic redshirt. Nixon is a 6-3, 306-pound defensive tackle. Iowa had plans for him to play in 2018.
Nixon was the opener to a question about defensive tackle depth.
“That’s what keeps you up at night, worrying about things,” Morgan said.
Right now in spring, junior Cedric Lattimore is running point at nose guard, where Nixon likely would’ve lined up. He’s backed up by sophomore walk-on Dalles Jacobus, a Cedar Rapids Kennedy grad. The other tackle spot is junior Brady Reiff and junior Garret Jansen.
At 295, Lattimore is Iowa’s biggest run stuffer. He’s the only Iowa D-lineman right now within 20 pounds of 300. Senior Matt Nelson will change this. The former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep is 6-8, 290, but he’s out this spring healing from a shoulder injury. (Morgan added that Nelson is prepping for his Medical College Admission Test this spring.)
“We’re undersized on the inside, all you have to do is look at the depth chart and watch us,” Morgan said. “We’re strong on the outside with Matt going down.”
The sell is opportunity at defensive tackle. Sophomore Chauncey Golston saw this and put his hand up. He’s moving from defensive end to the outside tackle spot. Golston, 6-5, 265, didn’t do a lot last year. In the Pinstripe Bowl, he saw some time as a pass rusher and recorded a sack.
“The difference between a heavy five technique (a run-stopping defensive end) as a defensive end and three technique at defensive tackle, you’re on a guard instead of a tackle,” Morgan said. “If you’re a tilted 1 (nose guard), you’re just a crash end only you’re a little closer.
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“Football still is football. You’ve got different responsibilities. ... He showed some great improvement during bowl prep. We saw that gradually coming. It gives a guy more of an opportunity to show what he can do in practice.”
Morgan and defensive line assistant Kelvin Bell shuffled eight and nine players into Iowa’s D-line rotation last year. Morgan wants that to be the standard going forward.
“We had a chance as a staff to go down to Georgia for a day to visit them,” Morgan said. “They’re playing 10 guys. I was down at Arizona State. They’re switching to a 3-4 and they’re playing six or seven guys. ... We’re asking a three technique to take on 670 pounds or against Wisconsin in the run game, and time after time after time, that’s hard to do.”
And, yes, Morgan does see senior defensive end Parker Hesse moving from end to tackle in pass-rush situations.
“If he’s one of our best, and we feel he is, put him somewhere he can help the team,” Morgan said. “He’s a guy you don’t want to take off the field, but he also knows if it helps the team, he’s all for it.”
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke at the annual coaches breakfast Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Oddly enough, he was peppered with questions about former Hawkeyes.
Former Iowa O-lineman Cole Croston made the Patriots’ 53-man roster last season as an offensive lineman.
“A developmental prospect. Has some position versatility. Has been in a good program. Works hard. Has improved,” Belichick said. “Obviously, didn’t get any playing time during the season, or very little, but see how it goes this year. He did enough in training camp to make the roster.”
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Just this week, the Patriots signed former Iowa O-lineman and former Seattle Seahawk Matt Tobin to a free-agent deal. Like Croston, Tobin was a multiyear starter at Iowa after joining the program as a walk-on.
“Iowa has had a lot of players fall into that category at those positions,” Belichick said. “I haven’t coached Tobin, so we’ll see how it goes with him. Again, glad we have him, glad we’re working with him. He has some experience, we’ll see how it works out.”
Tobin joins Croston and former Iowa O-lineman James Ferentz on the Patriots’ offensive line.
Belichick took a question about former Hawkeye wide receiver Riley McCarron, who made the Patriots’ practice squad last season.
“He’s a hardworking kid. Out there every day, really did a great job,” Belichick said. “He didn’t really get to run our offense much. Mostly scout team stuff. He’s a hard working kid who’s tough and smart.”
No reporters asked Belichick about former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who the Patriots signed as a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons last week.
“We’ve had our fill with Iowa players,” Belichick said, drawing laughs. “I’m sure we’ve got enough of them.”
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