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