The last couple of weeks I’ve talked about the Hawkeye offense. This week I’ll look at the defensive line and linebackers.
The defensive line could be the most important position as far as how successful the Hawkeyes will be. Iowa will be young and inexperienced, but I believe they have the coach that can make them a solid unit by the end of the year.
Reece Morgan, who has been the offensive line coach since 2003, will coach the d-line this year and in my opinion, might be the best pure coach on the staff.
Reece has done a great job of developing solid offensive linemen that have gone on to start in the pros like Marshall Yanda, a JuCo recruit, and Bryan Bulaga, who started for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Also Riley Reif, who is projected to be a top 10 draft pick this spring.
This is another position where a couple of freshman coming in might have a chance to play next fall.
I’ll talk more about them in the August preview.
Coach Morgan met with the media last week and talked about six to eight players in the rotation next fall. Reece also talked about the players stepping in this spring. “I think a guy that has really bought into it, is really trying hard, been on the scout team a lot is Louis Trinca-Pasat,”
said coach Morgan. Louis (6-3, 270) is a sophomore listed as the number two defensive tackle.
“Steve Bigach is the leader of the group,” said the coach. “Steve has been on the field and played. He’s respected by the players because of his knowledge and because he’s such a hard worker. He cares about the other guys and he’s trying to help them out.”
Steve (6-3, 282) is a senior and is currently the starting right defensive tackle.
“From a young standpoint, Darian Cooper I think is going to be an excellent player,” said Reece. “He has some natural tools but he’s very, very raw, very young, learning the system. I like his attitude.”
Darian (6-2, 280) redshirted last year and is listed as the other starting tackle.
“Riley McMinn is another guy, I think he’s got a big upside,” said coach Morgan. “Riley is really raw. Not there physically. He’s a 240-pound freshman going against a guy that’s a little older and bigger than him.”
Riley (6-7, 245) has the size to put on another 20 pounds by way of Chris Doyle.
He redshirted last year, was a top recruit out of Illinois and is the number one right end.
“Mike Hardy is a guy, we’ve been pleased with his progress,” said Reece. “Melvin Spears has gotten better each and every day. He’s a guy you feel really good about.”
Mike (6-5, 270) is a sophomore who played in a couple of games last fall. He is running number two at left defensive end.
Melvin (6-2, 255) redshirted last fall and is listed as the number two right end.
Casey McMillan (6-4, 305) has switched over to the d-line.
He played in four games last year on the offensive line.
Casey was the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in high school. He was first team all-state as an offensive and defensive lineman as a junior and senior.
Carl Davis (6-5, 310) and Dominique Alvis (6-4, 265) are being held out of spring ball recovering from injuries. Both could break into the two-deeps next fall and both have been helping the young guys this spring.
“We’ve got a group of guys that nobody knows about or anything else, but I’m excited to work with them,” said coach Morgan.
The linebackers are in good shape with junior James Morris (6-2, 230) and senior Christian Kirksey (6-2, 220) back after starting last fall.
James, who played on an injured ankle most of last season, had 110 tackles last fall and was named third team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele. He also had an interception and 3.5 tackles for a loss and starts spring ball as the number one middle linebacker.
Christian also had 110 tackles, one sack, one interception and five tackles for a loss. Christian is listed as the top outside linebacker.
Anthony Hitchens (6-1, 224) saw action in eight games and had a career-high seven tackles in Iowa’s win over Pittsburgh. He is listed as the top weak side linebacker.
All three have good speed and if Iowa does more man coverage, they will match up well against tight ends and running backs.
Backups will have some talent but will lack experience.
Shane DiBona (6-2, 235) sat out all last season with a foot injury. He played in all 13 games in 2010 and had two starts as a redshirt freshman. Shane is listed as the number two outside linebacker.
Shane was Massachusetts Division II player of the year as a senior. He was a running back in high school and had almost 3,000 yards rushing in his career and scored 32 touchdowns.
Quinton Alston (6-1, 224) is listed as backup to James Morris. Quinton played in six games last year and had seven tackles.
Marcus Collins (6-0, 215) and Cole Fisher (6-2, 218) are listed backups at the weak side position.
Marcus also played as a true freshman and saw action in 10 games with four tackles and four assists. He was named best defensive player in the Philadelphia Catholic League as a senior in high school.
Look for Dakota Getz (6-4, 235) to be in the mix if he recovers from a knee injury that happened against Iowa State and put him out for the season.
Dakota started out at tight end as a redshirt freshman and switched to linebacker last fall.
Next week I’ll look at the defensive backs, special teams and talk about the spring game.