’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 top 11 defenders, IMO.