On Wednesday, the media will gather with a couple coaches and players for the first time since spring football began. It will be our first opportunity to get a taste of how this portion of the schedule has gone when we meet with assistants Reese Morgan and LeVar Woods.
For now, we can discuss some of the storylines. Yesterday we dove inside the position battles on offense and today it is the defense's turn. With so many key players returning, there's much fewer spots up for grabs.
BACK-UP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
We know the starters. Drew Ott will have a spot but if he does not return, it will be Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson on the ends and Nathan Bazata and Jaleel Johnson inside. Now it is about building depth behind those guys. On the depth chart, the reserves listed on the outside are Sam Brincks and Anthony Nelson while it is Jake Hulett and Faith Ekakitie inside. Nelson and Ekakitie are likely to remain in the two-deep as they saw time on the second-string a year ago. The others are more open in my mind. Hulett is there because of the departure of Kyle Terlouw. He'll get the first crack but Michael Slater is someone to watch.
The graduation of Cole Fisher leaves a vacancy at the weakside linebacker spot. Some thought that Bo Bower could step in since he is someone with a lot of experience but he's more suited for the other linebacker spots so he'll remain a back-up to Ben Niemann. With Niemann out of spring ball with an injury, Bower will get the first-team reps there. Battling for the third starting spot will be Aaron Mends and Jack Hockaday. It is a true battle and I think Mends wins it. He's up over 220 pounds now and is very, very athletic. The weakside linebacker role fits him like a glove.
Since I believe Mends wins the starting job available, Jack Hockaday will be an obvioius back-up along with Bo Bower. Iowa can probably roll with five but a sixth in my mind will be Angelo Garbutt. They played him a lot during fall camp a year ago but chose not to use him in games to save a year of eligibility in my mind. He was probably close to having his redshirt burned. I think he's a guy that they're very fond of.
Jordan Lomax has graduated and may play on Sundays. The likely fill-in is Brandon Snyder. He played a lot on special teams and was the first off the bench among the safeties last season. The back-up free safety right now is listed as Jake Gervase. Their other safeties may be a year away while Anthony Gair will be the primary back-up once again for Miles Taylor. This is a starting position up for grabs but I would be very, very surprised if it is not won by Brandon Snyder.