The starters have not changed since last seasons 12-2 season as Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata each return. Johnson will be entering his senior season coming off a year where he started in all 14 games, had 45 tackles, and four sacks of the quarterback, according to the Universities official website. He's going to be one of the more experienced defensive lineman on the roster as he's played in 34 games since redshirting back in 2012.
You look right next to him on the interior of the line and you have another fairly experienced player in Bazata, a junior. He's played in 23 games since redshirting back in 2013. He started every single game next to Johnson last season and gave the Hawkeyes a lot of stability in an area where players can get hurt frequently. He recorded 42 tackles and sacked the QB three times last season, according to the Universities official site.
Behind Johnson and Bazata will be Faith Ekakitie, another senior and probably Kyle Terlouw, who is a walk-on senior. These two will give Iowa good depth at the defensive tackle position when Johnson and Bazata need to come off the field to get a breather. Brant Gressl and Michael Slater will most likely be third tier players and Austin Schulte, who is a true freshman, is likely headed towards a redshirt season.
These guys, especially the first two, have to give Iowa it's leadership along the defensive line. Iowa lost Nate Meier to graduation along with Drew Ott. Parker Hesse got a lot of time last year when Ott went out with multiple injuries and I thought he really played well with the snaps that he got. We are looking at Hesse and fellow sophomore Matt Nelson as the two starters on the outside, so that is a fairly inexperienced duo.
Johnson and Bazata need to really step their games on next season and give Iowa the push on the defensive line, especially early on.
Ekakitie and Terlouw are both pretty experienced as well, so it'd be nice to get some help from them when they are needed.
I think both starters are headed towards career years. They both have a bunch of games under their belt and are in their fourth and fifth years in the program. They know what the coaches are expecting of them and should be able to execute the game plan that is prepared on each and every Saturday. This way the coaches can focus more time on developing Nelson and Hesse without worrying about two of the most experienced players on the team. While Johnson still sometimes has his moments where he loses focus, I don't think that'll be the case this year.
These two have to get pressure on that quarterback while the younger defensive ends start to get more experience and get more comfortable playing the position. They definitely have the talent and athleticism, but it may take them a few weeks before they really fall into their grooves.