The 2001 Iowa D-line should have the size, speed and experience lacking in the two previous units. In 1999 the Hawks had to replace three starters including All-American Jared Devries. Last year they had to replace three players again while moving Aaron Kampman from LB to DE. Although Aaron's inexperience at DE showed early, he developed into a potential all-star by season end. This year, three starters are returning and Colin Cole has been switched from DT to DE. The difference in bulk is noticeable. While the Hawks have been overpowered up front in the past two years, the defensive line this year should prove much more impregnable. Chris Doyle has worked the foursome into a mobile, agile and hostile unit averaging 282 pounds. Running on the Hawks this year won't be easy. The positions breakdown as follows:
DE: # 94, Colin Cole, a 6-3, 300 pound former heavyweight wrestling champion from Plantation, Florida. Although Cole was moved from tackle to bolster the rushing defense, he did have five sacks last year in reserve. Backup # 67 Joe Uselman, 6-3, 255, a former walk-on, is one of the strongest players on the team.
DE: # 54, Aaron Kampman, a 6-4, 282 pound senior from Kelsey, Iowa. Although Aaron earned AA linebacker honors in high school, he has found a home at defensive end. He has been named to several pre season all Big Ten units. Aaron recorded three sacks and 94 tackles last year while learning the position. While OJT is not normally recommended in the Big Ten, Kampman learned quickly and is a candidate to play on Sundays. Aaron is a team leader and an all-around outstanding individual. Backup # 48, Howard Hodges, is a 6-2, 235, pound sophomore speed rusher from Copperas Cove, Texas. Since last year was a learning experience for Hodges, his knowledge of the position should be greatly increased this season.
DT: # 91, Jerry Montgomery, a 6-3, 300 pound senior from Mesquite, Nevada. The "Big Casino" has started 22 games at defensive tackle. The defense will look to cash in on his play during his final season. He led the Hawks in "tackles for loss" last season with eleven. Backup # 28, Cody O'Hare, a 6-4, 270 pound senior from Waverly, Iowa will be looking to improve on his playing time.
DT: # 92, Derrick Pickens, a 6-2, 284 pound senior from Houston. A former JUCO AA, Derrick led the team in sacks with seven. He should be even better after a year in the system. Backup # 90, Jared Clauss, is a 6-5 287 pound sophomore from West Des Moines. Clauss has the body and needs only to gain more playing time to become a star.
This year's linebacker corps should benefit from both experience and increased speed. Look for the linebackers to be more mobile this year as DC Norm Parker employs an attacking defense. The strength of the defensive line should be more adept at stopping the run and allow this strategy. Three players return with starting experience while two tremendous frosh may figure into the mix. The crew is comprised of:
OLB: # 42, Grant Steen, a 6-2, 238 pound sophomore from Emmetsburg. A former walk-on, Grant blossomed last year on special teams. Credit Coach Doyle here for increasing Grant's size while lowering his 40-yard dash time. Backup, # 50, George Lewis, is a 6-2, 230 pound sophomore from Fort Lauderdale. On Media Day, I asked the defensive players who was the craziest player on the team. "George" was the unanimous answer.Lewis also wins the hair award, with lengthy cornrows. His play this year should improve with a year under his belt. George looks much bigger than his listed weight, with massive chest and shoulders.
MLB: # 30, Roger Meyer, a 6-3, 244 pound senior from Rock Rapids, Iowa. The Hawk's # 2 tackler last year with 95 stops, Roger is a team leader. Backup, # 39, Mike Dolezal, is a 6-3, 240 pound senior from Minnesota. He started the first six games last year before getting injured. This is a real strong position for the Hawks in 2001.
WLB: # 51, Fred Barr, a 6-2, 230 pound junior. Fred is a native of Plantation, Florida. Named third team freshman All-American by the Sporting News in 1999, Fred's play last year may have been affected by off the field problems. This year, without distractions, he should improve his performance. Backup, # 53, Kevin Worthy, is a 6-3, 235 pound sophomore from Attalla, Alabama. He looks bigger than his listed weight and is the team's long snapper.
WILD CARD: # 31, Matt Roth, MLB, a 6-4, 245 pound true freshman from Villa Park, Illinois. Matt was named to virtually every high school all-American team last season. Matt won the state heavyweight wrestling championship, compiling a 31-0 season. He recorded an incredible 12 blocked kicks, four quarterback sacks and 23 tackles for loss his senior year. In addition, Matt may have led the country in knockouts as many of the people he hit could not get up. A force to be reckoned with on special teams this year while he learns the defensive schemes.
WILD CARD: # 52, Abdul Hodge, WLB, a 6-2, 220 pound true freshman from Fort Lauderdale. This guy can pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down, covering 40 yards in 4.5. His high school nickname, the "Hitman", says it all. Look for him on special teams early in the year.
CB: #8, Benny Sapp, a 5'11 185 pound sophmore from Lauderdale Lakes. Benny last year was too easily knocked around by bigger WR's in the BigTen, however, he has added 20 pounds and is much stronger this season. Ron Johnson better watch out!!!!
CB: #21, Matt Stockdale, a 5'10 188 senior from Iowa Falls, IA. Matt has had his problems here at U of Iowa, but has fought through every single one of them. Now its his time to retrieve his rewards by going to a bowl game.
S: #20, Chris Smith, a 5'11 195 sophmore from Paris, TX, has been one of the most improved players on this team. Chris is the sleeper of the secondary because many have counted on Jermire Roberts to step in, but he may be the piece to the puzzle that caps it off.
S: #33, Bob Sanders, a 5'8 200 sophmore from Erie, PA, is known as the "Erie Assassin." Bob devasted everyone with his explosive hits last year, and has now improved his coverage skills to match those. It should be very exciting to watch Bob this fall.
WILDCARD: #27, Jermire Roberts, a 6'2 210 JUCO Transfer from Port Arthur, TX was one of the three JUCO's we added that gave many Hawk fans excitement. Jermire still needs to pick-up the system, but he could really turn things on before the end of the season.
The meetings I am waiting for: Seneca Wallace, meet Matt Roth. Next, Seneca Wallace, meet the "Erie Assassin", Bob Sanders. However, if the first meeting happens, there may not be an opportunity for a second meeting.
Summary: The defensive line play will funnel more tackles to an outstanding corps of linebackers. Look for more blitzing from the linebackers and defensive backs. The old axiom, "speed kills", will be applied to Iowa's advantage this year. Linebacker Coach Bret Bielema, Defensive Line Coach Ron Aiken and Defensive Back Coach Phil Parker have spent many long hours with their charges. They will be rewarded for their efforts with a winter trip to a bowl game.
That's my take, but what do I know?