Posted by: marcmwm | March 30, 2009

Four downs with the linebackers

QUICK LOOK BACK: Senior Pat Angerer went from the injury list to all-Big Ten candidate in
Senior MLB Pat Angerer led Iowa in tackles and interceptions last season. A giant leap from a sophomore season that saw him log one assisted tackle. (Cliff Jette photo)

Senior MLB Pat Angerer led Iowa in tackles and interceptions last season. A giant leap from a sophomore season that saw him log one assisted tackle. (Cliff Jette photo)

’08. As a sophomore in 2007, he suffered through numerous injuries and mono. He played in just four games and assisted on just one tackle. As a junior last year, Angerer led the Hawkeyes with 107 tackles and five interceptions. Who saw that coming, besides Pat’s parents and coaches? Senior A.J. Edds continued his steady-to-stellar play as the Iowa linebacker who throws a wrench into the “linebacker can’t cover wide receiver argument.” (It’s worked more times that it hasn’t, but when it doesn’t, whoa.) And junior Jeremiha Hunter went from No. 2 behind Jeff Tarpinian to second-leading tackler with 80 stops. This unit is blessed with great depth — juniors Jacody Coleman and Tarpinian and sophomore Tyler Nielsen.

FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: Well, I have to put something here. Depth has been the concern for a few positions, but that doesn’t go next to the LBs. Can we pick nits with the size factor? Edds is 244, Angerer 235 and Hunter 235. Can we poke at athleticism? You’ve seen Edds, right? Angerer showed tons of it last fall. Hunter dropped at least two picks. There!! Hunter dropped two interceptions. These guys need to have better hands!!!

Depth isn’t a concern. Coleman (6-2, 240) has played a lot and regularly saw some time in nickel. Tarpinian (6-3, 233) might still challenge Hunter for a starters role. He had something LB coach Darrell Wilson and D-coordinator Norm Parker liked before blowing a hamstring early in fall camp. Edds’ backups — Nielsen (6-4, 232) and junior Troy Johnson — have experience. Nielsen played on quite a few special teams last fall; Johnson (6-2, 235) saved a TD against Iowa State.

The only thing missing might be young bodies. This unit is set through 2010. Sophomore Bruce Davis (6-0, 232) and Nielsen are the only scholarshipped sophomores at LB now. LB is a major recruiting need for the ’10 class.

THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The future took a hit during the offseason. Dezman Moses announced a transfer during the season after a four-game suspension for a public intox arrest. Lance Tillison, who made the switch from safety during the season, announced his transfer in late January. He saw some time in dime packages and came up with one INT, but he was staring up on the depth chart. Freshman Khalif Staten also announced a transfer in January. He was a good-looking athlete at 6-3, 240, but grades might’ve been the issue.

Jake Reisen activated to scholarship in January. He was a grayshirt commitment — the first during the Ferentz era who actually went scholarship-less during the first semester. He’s bulked up to 233 and will plug in at middle linebacker this spring. I might as well throw Shane DiBona, an incoming recruit from Massachusettes. He’s listed as a fullback, but at 6-2, 220-ish, I’m going to predict linebacker. I don’t know how his wheels are. That would be the thing that would keep him at a FB or, maybe, TE.

The 2010 class will probably include three or four linebackers. It already has Solon’s James Morris, a 6-2, 215-pounder who stands as Iowa’s lone commitment right now.

SECOND DOWN — STRENGTHS: Edds, Angerer, Hunter and the depth. Kirk Ferentz said the initial worry Angerer was point of attack. Was he big enough, strong enough to fill a gap? He was fine last season. This season, he’ll be playing behind a new pair of defensive tackles, Karl Klug and Mike Daniels. Mitch King and Matt Kroul kept a lot of Big Ten offensive linemen busy the last four years. How good did they make the LB corps look? We’ll find out.

Edds continues to amaze me with the way he stays with wide receivers. He’s coming back fast from shoulder surgery, but will be out for spring practice (currently ongoing spring practice). He’s smart and tough. He’s a coach on the field. Those guys are worth their weight in film time.

Hunter was in position to make a lot of plays last fall. His maturation really locked down the weakside linebacker, which should’ve been a concern after Tarpinian, who was penciled in since spring practice, was injured. The next step is a leadership role.

I would imagine the 2010 starters would go Coleman at MLB, Hunter at WLB and Nielsen/Johnson at OLB, with Tarpinian pushing. I can’t imagine we’ve heard the last of Tarpinian. I think he fits somewhere, just not sure where. The 2011 starters . . . Let’s stop here.

FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: Edds, Angerer and Hunter. Nielsen/Johnson, Coleman and Tarpinian. One group will be the core of the defense. The other will headline the special teams and will earn plenty of PT in nickel and dime situations. Norm loves to use the linebackers. Rule No. 1 with Iowa defense is stopping the run. That will always include LBs and, thus, will have a Coleman or a Tarpinian in on a third-and-7.

Will Wilson/Parker search for another hybrid to replace Tillison? Doubt it. Rule 1, stop the run. I can’t think of an LB who’s played for Norm that has weighed less that 220. I’m sure I’m missing someone, but I don’t think so.

The chip on the shoulder for this group is proving last season’s success at stopping the run was just as much them as it was King/Kroul and the DL. It was, but we have to give them a chip on the shoulder. This is Iowa football. It thrives on that kind of thing.

Starters — Angerer, Hunter, Edds

Next — Coleman, Tarpinian, Nielsen/Johnson

Incoming — Reisen, maybe DiBona, Davis

Surprise — The Hunter-Tarpinian competition heats up and (way big surprise) spawns a defensive end. They are among Iowa’s topĀ 11 defenders, IMO.

Caption: Iowa's A.J. Edds (49) wraps up Penn State's Evan Royster (22) during the second quarter of their game Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Iowa won the game, 24-23.(Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Caption: Iowa's A.J. Edds (49) wraps up Penn State's Evan Royster (22) during the second quarter of their game Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Iowa won the game, 24-23.(Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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Responses

  1. Edds reminds me a lot of Greenway. This whole group is one of the best in the Big Ten. Maybe in the nation?

  2. Erik, I think the question is who makes the biggest leap as far as improvement. Of the three, I think Hunter probably has the most room to grow. That said, Angerer has been a starter for just one season. Maybe he can also add a few gears.

    Is Edds the best OLB in the Ferentz era? I think so, and I really liked Grant Steen, a football player’s football player.

  3. I am really curious as to what 40 time Edds has when he goes to combine…I think he’s got to be close to Greenway in speed and he’d got a good 1 inch on Chad in height. Edds seems to a real good fit in NFL for line backer in a 3-4 scheme..I could see the guy making All Pro team down the line.

    It will be interesting to see how Tyler Nielsen progress–he probably lacks Edds instincts in pass coverage, but he has similar frame and speed…..this is the biggest and most athletic we’ve been at that SAM spot…Edds has played it like nobody before. . He can just match up with anyone.

    Big fan of his…plus he’s been a class kid. Easy to root for him when he makes NFL team.

    I never thought that 3-4 they ran with Tillison in there was effective. So little pressure from 3 man rush—most of the times teams converted on 3rd and long. The times they stopped the Offense, it was usually a dropped pass.

  4. Logic — Yes, Edds is rangier than Greenway, but Greenway was probably a little better in traffic. Overall, I think it’s a pretty good comparison.

    The game you’re thinking of is the Wisconsin game. Tillison saw most of his time in that game. The Iowa defense played well, but UW QB Dustin Shearer missed a lot of throws (17 of 34 and a 78.01 efficiency).

  5. [...] Diauntae Morrow announced his transfer in February. He would’ve been a junior and might’ve pushed for some serious playing time, especially with Sash and Greenwood sitting out spring practice with shoulder injuries. Watch the Illinois game. At some point in the second half, Morrow was in for Sash on a few obvious passing downs in the second half. But Sash didn’t fritter his opportunity and became the defense’s most improved player. So, Morrow is out. As for Lance Tillison, I counted him as a linebacker. [...]

  6. [...] Diauntae Morrow announced his transfer in February. He would’ve been a junior and might’ve pushed for some serious playing time, especially with Sash and Greenwood sitting out spring practice with shoulder injuries. Watch the Illinois game. At some point in the second half, Morrow was in for Sash on a few obvious passing downs in the second half. But Sash didn’t fritter his opportunity and became the defense’s most improved player. So, Morrow is out. As for Lance Tillison, I counted him as a linebacker. [...]

  7. [...] Four downs with the linebackers. [...]

  8. [...] joins Solon’s James Morris in Iowa’s 2010 recruiting class. Iowa’s linebacker corps should be a strength for the next two seasons, but, heavy with juniors and seniors, it will need a reload in a couple of years. Iowa coaches [...]

  9. [...] Parker’sĀ belief in Sash (two-year starter next fall) and Greenwood (three-year starter) give Lance Tillison (who was officially a linebacker when he left, not a safety) and Diauntae Morrow reason [...]

  10. [...] Parker’s belief in Sash (two-year starter next fall) and Greenwood (three-year starter) give Lance Tillison (who was officially a linebacker when he left, not a safety) and Diauntae Morrow reason to [...]

  11. [...] Here’s a story The Gazette’s Scott Dochterman did before last spring practice. Here’s a couple linebacker stories from this winter (Crazy with linebackers and Four downs with Iowa linebackers). [...]


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