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An eye on the Hawks

For the next three weeks I’ll take a look at the Iowa Hawkeye football team.
Iowa has a lot of talent back from a 9-4 football team and it will be interesting if they can be as good or better than predicted.
Media day was last Friday and the Hawkeyes look ready to rumble and with a little help from my homeboys, Kelly Neustrom and Terry Intveld, we got some nice quotes and pictures.
This week I’ll look at the defense.
The Hawkeyes lost three top performers on defense from last year; Mitch King, Matt Kroul and Bradley Fletcher are all in the NFL but with playmakers coming back, Iowa could be as good or better than last year on D.
It surprised me to find out there are only two seniors, Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, listed as starters coming into fall camp.
Pat and A.J. will be the team leaders and also will be up for all Big Ten honors.
It all starts up front and the Hawks have a pair of All-Big Ten candidates at defensive end.
Adrian Clayborn (6-3, 282) and Christian Ballard (6-5, 285) anchor the line. They got some time at tackle in the spring and both are ready for breakout years.
“They’re big play guys,” said Pat Angerer. “They work hard and they’re tough. You just can’t say enough good things about them.”
Adrian had eight tackles for a loss, two sacks and forced a fumble. Christian had 3.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and five quarterback hurries.
Sophomore Broderick Binns (6-2, 265) played in every game last year at d-end and had 2.5 tackles and two sacks.
Another sophomore, Lebron Daniel (6-2, 250) should also see some playing time.
Replacing Mitch and Matt will be by committee, according to head coach Kirk Ferentz.
As of right now Karl Klug (6-4, 258) and Mike Daniels (6-1, 267) are listed as No.1.
“Karl and Mike did a good job,” said coach Ferentz. “We expected that from Karl, and Mike has made strides.”
Backups include Steve Bigach (6-3, 270), Travis Meade (6, 280) and Cody Hundertmark (6-4, 280).
“Steve Bigach had a good spring,” said coach Ferentz. “He’s a young player with a good future. Travis Meade is a good story. He volunteered to move over from offense and we really think he has a chance to contribute this year.”
Iowa could have the best linebackers in the Big Ten. All three; Pat, A.J. and Jeremiha Hunter started last year and they all have a shot at postseason honors.
Pat, (6-1,235), who made second team All-Big Ten, had five interceptions and led the team with 107 tackles.
“Pat was one of the great stories on the team last year,” said coach Ferentz. “He was second team going into camp. He emerged and played as well as anyone on defense.”
A.J. (6-4, 244) has 25 straight starts, 59 tackles, two quarterback sacks and an interception.
“A.J. is a two-year starter at the outside spot,” said the coach. “He does a great job and is a strong leader as well.”
Jeremiha, (6-2, 235) started every game last year totaling 80 tackles, five tackles for a loss and an interception.
Linebacker could be the deepest position on defense.
You’ve got Tyler Nielson (6-4, 232), Troy Johnson (6-2, 235) and Jeff Tarpinian (6-3, 235) waiting in the wings.
All three have experience and defensive coordinator Norm Parker said that Jeff is really battling Jeremiha for the starting spot.
“Competition makes us better as a unit,” said Tarpinian, who was nicked up last year. “We have a really veteran group of linebackers so we’re excited working together helping the young guys out. I’m excited to be healthy.”
The Hawkeyes have three solid defensive backs returning and all three including Amari Spievey (6, 190), Brett Greenwood (6, 200) and Tyler Sash (6-1, 210) have a shot at postseason honors.
Tyler led the Big Ten with five interceptions while Amari had four.
Norm Parker, Hawkeye defensive coordinator, said last spring that Iowa not only had the most good cover men they’ve ever had, but Amari Spievey might be the best corner since he’s been here.
“It’s great to have that experience back there,” said Brett Greenwood. “With me, Tyler and Amari. We’ve had a year experience playing together pretty much all season. We’re on the same page always and it’s just a matter of trying to find that other corner position.”
Jordan Bernstine (5-11, 205), William Lowe (5-10, 170 and Shaun Prater are the top three fighting for the job.
Jordan was a Parade All-American coming out of Des Moines and played as a true freshman.
Jordan played behind Bradley Fletcher and with Amari last year.
“Those are experienced guys and we all help each other out as far as film, techniques on the field and all that,” said Jordan. “It’s definitely an advantage playing with guys who have a lot of game experience.”
David Cato (5-11, 205) and Jack Swanson (5-11, 195) back up Tyler and Brett while Greg Castillo (5-11, 180) is listed behind Amari.
“We’re not sure how it will all play out, but like the offensive line, we have good competition,” said Captain Kirk on the cornerback spot.
I like this defense. There is talent, experience and three or four Hawkeyes that could have special years.
If the special teams and offensive line continue to improve…