Far less position battles will be taking place on defense than the offensive side of the ball. The Hawkeyes return a lot to a defense that paved the way toward a Rose Bowl appearance a year ago. All four secondary spots have been solidified in addition to most of the linebackers and defensive linemen.
We take a look at a few that will be up for grabs.
This battle is all but sewn up as well. It was a battle entering spring football between sophomores Jack Hockaday and Aaron Mends. Mends does have an extra year on campus after being redshirted his first year while Hockaday had his redshirt burned midway through the season to be a contributor on special teams and provide more depth to the linebacking corps. It's Mends' job to lose and I think he holds onto it during fall camp. Hockaday will serve in a reserve role in all likelihood, along with Bo Bower, to bolster an already strong core of players at the position.
Parker Hesse has one spot locked up and the other is up for grabs between sophomore Matt Nelson and redshirt freshman Anthony Nelson. It is likely already Matt Nelson's job to lose and fall camp could decide just how much the snaps are divided between the two. Anthony Nelson does specialize in his pass rushing ability which is a strong need for the Hawkeye defense at this stage. If he turns out to be too effective of a pass rusher throughout fall camp, it will be tough to keep him off the field. The more complete player is Matt Nelson at this point. Fall camp should determine how snaps are divided.
This is one of the strongest groups on the team. It did take a hit when Maurice Fleming chose to transfer to West Virginia but it is still a group that holds a great amount of talent at the top of the depth chart. Iowa returns the Jim Thorpe Award winner in Desmond King along with fellow senior Greg Mabin. Josh Jackson proved last year that he's a real talent at the position as well and played well when inserted into the game. He is likely the player this year that we will say that could start on a lot of other squads. The fourth spot is up in the air and it's a role that does see playing time in the Hawkeye defense. It'll likely be Michael Ojemudia who had a strong spring. However, it will still be a spot where the coaching staff will want to see how others respond, including true freshman Manny Rugamba. I think walk-on Jonathan Lubanza should not be counted out either.
There isn't much of a question on who will start as Miles Taylor returns as a starter and Brandon Snyder seems to have the other safety role locked up as well. The back-ups are a little more undecided and listed as walk-on Jake Gervase and Anthony Gair. Gair is a senior that has seen the field enough to pencil in as a primary back-up. I would not say that Gervase has his spot in the rotation locked up. There's little depth at safety and perhaps true freshman Amani Hooker could rise up quickly during Fall camp.
BACK-UP DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Kyle Terlouw has left but Faith Ekakitie is back which gives Iowa one proven back-up to starters Nathan Bazata and Jaleel Johnson. However, they'll want another guy to step up and emerge and receive snaps as well. And possibly two. I think the candidates would be junior Jake Hulett, redshirt freshman Michael Slater, and perhaps true freshman Cedrick Lattimore. I think Lattimore's redshirt gets burned but he may get his first snaps at defensive end. I think the other defensive tackle to receive snaps could very well be Michael Slater. This will be a pivotal Fall for his future.