Position Preview: DL

For the second year in a row, Iowa heads into the season with questions surrounding its defensive line. New Coach Reese Morgan and his gang try to answer them.

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Offensive Line

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa and its fans feared some bumps in the road for last season's defensive line prior to the first kickoff. They were realized.

The Hawkeyes said good-bye to 2011 NFL Draft Picks Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug after the previous season. That's never been an easy thing to replace at Iowa.

It's fair to say that defensive line worries have not been erased heading into this fall. Again, Iowa must find replacements for its top two D-linemen - Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns.

Defensive Line Coach Rick Kaczenski left the Hawkeyes to take the same position at Nebraska after last season. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz replaced him with his long-time offensive line coach, Reese Morgan. In the spring, he inferred that the competition was open.

"I can tell you this: no one, even the guys that have played, which are very few, has a spot set, regardless of their year or age in school," Morgan said. "We're going to play the best four guys."

Morgan is right. Not many returnees have long resumes in college football.

Senior Steve Bigach is Iowa's most veteran front man with five career starts, all of which came last season. He has 27 tackles as a Hawkeye with two sacks.

Junior Dominic Alvis played in nine games in '11 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the campaign. He totaled 30 tackles.

Beyond Bigach and Alvis, senior Joe Gaglione and sophomores Mike Hardy, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Carl Davis, have seen very limited game reps.

If you have a lot of faith in Iowa's defensive front, it's probably based on Morgan, the belief in enough players to step up or blind loyalty. There just isn't much hard evidence with which to work.

Iowa needs unproven players to emerge as, at the very least, contributors. There's just not other way around that.

Davis looked to be in line for more playing time last year before injuries struck. He was recruited as an athletic, agile big man who could control the middle of the line.

There's also some solid potential in players entering their second years at Iowa. Darian Cooper, Dean Tsopanides, Riley McMinn and Melvin "Bud" Spears could push for spots in the rotation.

Redshirt sophomore Louis Trinca-Pasat has enjoyed success in practice, but he needs to be more consistent. His classmate, Mike Hardy, made strides in the spring and will be given an opportunity to get in the mix at end.

Transfer Nathan Lyman, a junior, began his career at Southwest Missouri State. He prepped at Grundy Center.

Defensive line is tough place for true freshmen to break through at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are bringing in Jaleel Johnson, Faith Ekakatie, Drew Ott and Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara who fit that description this fall.

Johnson probably is the most physically ready to step in. Ott also could have a shot to contribute.

New Iowa Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker hinted in the spring that the Hawkeyes will do things to aid the line at least while it develops. That could come in the form of more blitzing and press coverage on the outside.

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