Posted by: marcmwm | March 20, 2009

Four downs with the D-line

QUICK LOOK BACK: When Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway were leaving Iowa, I did a

Iowa's Adrian Clayborn tries to block a Northwestern pass as he contends with Northwestern's Al Netter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, September 27, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa's Adrian Clayborn tries to block a Northwestern pass as he contends with Northwestern's Al Netter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, September 27, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

 story saying the two belonged in something that I’ve called the “Hall of Ferentz.” It’s the atrium in the Iowa football office building. Banners of Banks, Gallery, Sanders, Kaeding and Clark hang on the wall. Hodge and Greenway are there now, too. Do Mitch King and Matt Kroul belong up there? Honest question, no strings attached. I could see an argument for a King banner without Kroul, but that begs the question, can you have one without the other? This is one of the goofy things I think about. They combined for 95 career starts, nearly 500 career tackles and 75 tackles for loss (55 for King).

What do you think?

Ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard were contributors in their first seasons as starters, combining for 90 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss (Clayborn had 8).

FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: The Hawkeyes lost the 95 starts of King and Kroul, so, of course, experience on the inside is the big headache here. Most of Iowa’s games were close last season, so the rotation shrank on the D-line more often than not. Junior DT Karl Klug saw some time. Sophomore DT Mike Daniels saw some time, not enough for any conclusions.

On the outside, Clayborn and Ballard took most of the snaps, but sophomore Broderick Binns did see quality playing time and made big, noticeable plays that mattered in games (see Purdue).

Developing bodies on the inside is the key for this unit. Klug, Daniels, sophomore Cody Hundertmark (who sat out last year after soulder surgery), maybe Clayborn, maybe Ballard or maybe senior Chad Geary bulks up. Binns’ development could push Clayborn or Ballard inside.

The rest of the roster is prospects. Will anyone from the group of redshirt freshmen Steve Bigach, Joe Gaglione and Jason Semmes and sophomore Lebron Daniel be ready to contribute? Will walk-ons Mark Mahmens or Thomas Nardo and Joe Forgy (a late addition from Ellsworth) bring anything? I don’t expect any of the true freshmen — Scott Covert, Tyler Harrell or Marty Hopkins — to see the field in ’09.

Iowa has 19 players on the offensive line. The D-line has 17 with 13 on scholarship. The margin for error is smaller with the D-line.

Plus, it might be a while before we have anything definitive on Clayborn.

THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Hundertmark counts as an addition. He played as a true freshman in ’07, but took a redshirt last year after suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. He was a 6-4, 276-pounder going into last fall. I don’t know where he is weight-wise this spring. We’ll find out next week when the prospectus comes out. If he takes control of a No. 2 tackle spot and works his way into the rotation, it’d be a huge plus for a unit that doesn’t have a ton of experience.

This spring is the first real public test drive for Bigach, Gaglione and Semmes. I think, development-wise, Gaglione might be the closest to seeing the field. Last fall, he weighed in at 230 on his 6-5 frame. If he’s in the 250-range, he could see some time at either DE or DT. Bigach came in at 220; Semmes at 218. This is a developmental group. How much can their bodies develop for 2009?

I think all three recruits (Covert, Harrell and Hopkins) project as DTs, but I’ve never shaken hands with them, so I say that as hunch only.

Here’s what Kirk Ferentz said in February, “We’ll figure it out when they get here, but . . . Scott (Covert) and Martin are probably closer to that Matt Kroul and Mitch King kind of build in bodies.”

Sounds like Harrell could go either way, “Tyler is more of a linear-type of guy, so I kind of foresee him being on the edge. We’ll just have to see what happens. There’s a certain knack you have to have to play inside. We’ll see if they (referring to all Iowa’s DL recruits) have that or not and go from there.”

SECOND DOWN — STRENGTHS: Again, refer to the link on Clayborn, but here and now, without any punishment or judgment, Iowa should have a pair of terrific, all-Big Ten caliber defensive ends. Or one all-Big Ten caliber end and one all-Big Ten caliber tackle, if one of them slides inside. I think that almost has to happen.

Possible lineup with a Clayborn/Ballard switch:

DE — Binns

DT — Klug

DT — Ballard/Clayborn

DE — Ballard/Clayborn

Binns has earned a look as a full-time starter. In limited time last season, he made plays, finishing with 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Klug is an intriguing player. He shouldn’t work as a tackle, at 6-4, 255 pounds, but he does, finishing with five tackles for loss and two sacks. He singlehandedly saved four points with a TFL on Penn State’s first drive last fall at Kinnick. Will he hold up as a full-time player (remember, he’s had a back surgery)?

FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: Iowa’s best and most proven D-linemen are Clayborn, Ballard and Binns. Those three need to be on the field in some way, shape or form. In January, I voted Clayborn to make the move inside. I think he’s just a more stout human being. Ballard, at 6-4, has a little more range, what you want from your defensive end.

Rotation is key. It helped last season. That makes Daniels (6-1, 261) an important player. A rotation of Klug, Clayborn, Daniels and Hundertmark (depending on his shoulder) gives this unit a little more comfortable margin for error. A rotation of Binns, Ballard, Geary and Gaglione at end? Less experience there. Would that hold up?

Those are the eight names that, I believe, will see the bulk of the playing time.

Starters — Ballard, Clayborn, Klug and Binns

Next — Geary, Daniels, Hundertmark, Gaglione

Incoming — Covert, Harrell, Hopkins

Surprise — Klug earns another Big Ten defensive player of the week OR Clayborn/Ballard leads the Big Ten in sacks.

Iowa defensive end Christian Ballard reacts after sacking Wisconsin quarterback Dustin Sherer for a nine-yard loss during the third quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa defensive end Christian Ballard reacts after sacking Wisconsin quarterback Dustin Sherer for a nine-yard loss during the third quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

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Responses

  1. Mark, your 4 Down analysis’ the past few weeks have been outstanding.

    I believe the picture in the atrium needs both Mitch and Matt. There was a symbiosis between those two, that you could not double either one, and their stunts were relentless.

    I think DLine is one place where speed is going to become more important than strength. I was very impressed with Utah in the Sugar Bowl, who just blew past ‘Bama down after down. This is why we will miss Mitch: you can’t learn that in a weight room, and I’m not sure you can coach it, but it is extremely disruptive to an offense.

    Can’t wait for your observations from spring ball.

  2. I could see the argument for just King. They were both great players, but I think Mitch really separated himself in his senior year. I don’t really see why Kroul would deserve it over, say, Jonathan Babineaux or Colin Cole.

    As for next year, I really hope Hundertmark as ready. Klug is a fantastic passrusher, but I just can’t see him playing inside full-time. They’re going to need someone bigger who can sub in for him fairly often. I do really like the idea of Clayborn or Ballard moving inside (I prefer Ballard because I think Clayborn is the better end, but either one works I guess). They’re both already DT sized, and, as I’ve said before, I LOVE Binns. I think he’ll be the best pass rusher on the team.

  3. did you ever get any word on why no Kraul at the combines? maybe he thinks his best shot is to go free agent and determine where where he fits best? hmm.

  4. Mitch King and Matt Kroul both are very deserving.
    Mitch is a no-brainer. There may not have been a more consistent disruptive Defensive lineman at Iowa, in it history.

    And Matt Kroul’s record of consecutive starts is SIMPLY AMAZING! Especially at the D-line position. Look around the Big Ten and see how many D-lineman start every game. Very, very few. Matt Kroul is the epitome of Iowa, dirt farmer and their TOUGHNESS.

  5. Klug and Binns, it’s all about Klug and Binns! Kroul and King were great, all about effort and intensity, but where were the sacks? I’m missing Ron Aiken more than I thought. Where is the penetrable ability of Roth and Babineaux? I think it’s with Klug and Binns, and especially with Binns.

  6. I’m a bit late to the party here, but I will echo the sentiments of a couple folks before me.

    If Mitch gets a spot in the Ferentz HOF, then Kroul should get a spot right alongside him.

    Neither one would have been the same without the other – not just because they were so effective, but because both knew each others games inside and out. They both knew where the other would be in any given situation.

    King fits the Matt Roth model of Iowa d-lineman of recent vintage, where Kroul is more of the Jonathan Babineux type – somewhat understated, but you always know that he’s there.

  7. With plenty of experienced players returning on the defensive line, (Ballard, Clayborn, Binns and Geary have all been starters for a time) along with Karl Klug, Hundtermark and perhaps Daniels, the defensive line will be JUST AS GOOD, if not better than 2008. And with the Linebacking corp being the deepest and most talented EVER at IOWA, this defense is going to rock people.

    Go Hawkeyes!

  8. Pete, great example on Utah and Alabama. The Tide never caught up. Utah wasn’t a big defensive team, either. Active linebackers carried the Utes.

    Adam, I hear you. My argument for Kroul — and maybe it’s a weak one — would be that without Kroul there might not be a King. They were hip-to-hip for so long. But on numbers, it’s King alone.

    It doesn’t appear Hundertmark is going to be ready for spring at least. But I didn’t see Bigach making the move he’s made.

    Kelly, no word on that, except the NFL didn’t seem him as a draftable player. That doesn’t mean the end for him. He’ll get a free agent look in camp. He’ll get a chance to prove himself. It’ll be a longshot, but it happens every year.

    Alex, your thoughts on Kroul echo mine. Great example of an Iowa player. The 50 straight starts, no missed classes or practices and only one or two training sessions is amazing. People need to appreciate that.

    Sam, in retrospect, do Roth and Babineaux belong in the Hall of Ferentz? IMO, so far, they are the “best of” in the Ferentz era as far as D-linemen go, with King, Cole and Howard Hodge in there.

    For next season, I think the top four D-linemen are Clayborn, Ballard, Binns and Klug. Not sure how, but Binns needs to be on the field.

    Doug, I’m with you. Can’t have one without the other. Kroul doesn’t match King’s numbers but people in the program who’ve seen the work ethic know that means something too.

    Doc, love the optimism. These guys have a lot to prove. I’m not sure we’ll see a better D-line than 2004, but I like the potential for a strong rotation here. This might be one of those “sum better than any of the parts” things.

  9. […] Four downs with the D-line. […]

  10. Binns is a stud he is going to do great things in the year to come, im talking All big ten by senior year

  11. […] high for Ballard Junior defensive end Christian Ballard knows the spotlight will be on the D-line next fall, with the departures of all-timer DTs Mitch King and Matt […]


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