A brand new season is almost upon us as we look forward to the 2015 version of Iowa Hawkeyes football. For the next several days, Hawkeye Insider will be giving a preview of what to watch for, what to expect, and a prediction on performance from each position group on the team.
Today, it's the turn of the big boys up front on the defensive line.
The defensive end is pretty simple; Drew Ott and Nate Meier. They've both been tough to handle for the young offensive tackles, dominant even in some of the action that we have seen. We'll find out in the opener against Illinois State if it's because Ott and Meier are just that good, or if it's Boone Myers and Ike Boettger being a long ways from where the coaches would like them. Head coach Kirk Ferentz shared his opinion on that topic.
It's a little bit of each," he said. "We think (Drew) is a pretty good player and we thought that a year ago. It's an ideal testing situation for a guy like Boone (Myers) or Cole (Croston)."
The defensive tackle seems like a position that is still undecided as far as the top two guys are concerned. Three guys have repped inside with the ones in the limited action that we have seen; Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson, and Nathan Bazata. And once Darian Cooper can return, he will join that group. If I had to make a projected guess right now on which two line up for the Hawkeyes on the first snap of the season, I would roll with Johnson and Bazata.
"It's a rotation thing right now," defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson explained after Kids' Day in Kinnick Stadium. "We're still competing for spots right now. Nothing is ever given here. Everything is always earned. We're doing a full rotation with all the defensive tackles here."
THE PRIMARY BACKUPS
This hasn't really been on display for there to be a whole lot of knowledge out there to gather from. However, they are confident about going to the bench some at the defensive line position according to defensive coordinator Phil Parker.
"(The depth) is probably the best we've had in a while," he noted about the defense as a whole. "Everyone has a chance to play and they're showing they can do that on the field."
"I know we lost two good guys inside," Parker addressed the defensive tackle spot. "The guys we have at defensive line, I feel comfortable with the first two-deep."
Guys mentioned by Kirk Ferentz at defensive line have been redshirt freshmen Matt Nelson, Ekakitie, and junior Kyle Terlouw.
THE REST OF THE BUNCH
This is probably a group that won't see much action at all, and it is comprised of guys such as redshirt freshman Terrence Harris, sophomore Jake Hulett, sophomore Brant Gressel, and senior Melvin Spears. They won't be asked to do a lot.
It is a strong group that was complimented very well by coordinator Phil Parker. They've had a good fall camp, even though there is holes to fill at tackle. They're not as big at defensive tackle as they were a year ago, but I don't see size as being a question. Ekakitie, Johnson, and Bazata are no slouches. Bazata has missed some action due to injury but his full go now, and Jaleel Johnson has flashed quite a bit. This is a unit that has a chance to be very productive, especially the defensive ends.