Handicapping the Defensive Line 2-Deep

Earlier this week, we took a crack at handicapping our predicted running back depth chart, now it's time to focus on another unit that is mostly a mystery on this day in July. One of the biggest collective question marks surrounding the 2005 Iowa Hawkeye football team is how are they going to replace four senior starters on the defensive line? We do our best at tackling this question, and we believe that some true freshmen are going to be in the mix.

The 2004 defensive line and its four senior starters anchored a defense that stopped the run to the tune of fewer than 82 yards per game, just a few feet away from the best ever mark in school history.

Sure, linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge helped that cause, but the havoc wreaked by Jonathon Babineaux and Matt Roth will be sorely missed, and the gap assignment discipline exhibited by Tyler Luebke is not just a guarantee. Derrick Robinson also had a fine senior season.

The only certainty along Iowa's defensive line is that you are going to need a program very early on to figure out who is in the game, as the numbers will be somewhat foreign to us all.

THE INCUMBENTS

Well, this is a pretty short list. Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison played sparingly in 2004, but they are the most veteran players returning this season. Iwebema played in all 12 game last year, but had no statistics in nine of those contests and tallied just two tackles all season. Mattison saw action in every game and had just five tackles, total.

Heading out of spring drills, Iwebema seemingly had secured a starting position at defensive end, but Mattison had a foot injury that cut his practice time short.

There is heavy speculation that Mattison may move inside to defensive tackle this year and beyond, while Iwebema is solidly entrenched at end for the time being.

Now, the following players are incumbents only in the sense that they have played in games, but even more sparingly than Iwebema and Mattison.

Nate Roos saw limited action and had just one tackle, but he was listed as a #1 on the media guide's depth chart this week. George Eshareturi saw limited action in five games last year, as did Jacob Spratt, who made the move from linebacker to defensive end in the spring.

Mike Follett began his career on the defensive side of the ball, but made the move to tight end. He switched back to the defense this winter, getting looks at linebacker, but will play defensive end this year.

YEAR TWO NEWCOMERS

Matt Kroul leads the way, as he was listed as a #2 all of last year. He did not have to burn his redshirt, so he will still be a frosh this season. Other players that redshirted are Ettore Ewen (tore ACL in August of 2005, ready to go), Alex Willcox (had off season surgery in inter of 2004), Ted Bentler, Grant McCracken, Anton Narinskiy and Mitch King. King made the move to tackle this spring after beginning his career last fall at linebacker.

TRUE FROSH NEWCOMERS

These are the players that signed letters of intent with Iowa in February of 2005:

Alex Kanellis, Tyler Blum, Ryan Bain, Justin Collins and Vernon Jackson

HANDICAPPING THE TWO DEEP

Iwebema and Kroul appear to have a good lead for starting spots at this juncture of the summer, with Iwebema at one and Kroul at one tackle.

It's my feeling that Mike Follett may emerge at the other defensive end. He is a senior, he is a solid player and though he has not played one snap of college football at defensive end, we feel he will emerge from this pack. Ted Bentler is going to push for time, as will true frosh Alex Kanellis.

By the way, and you heard it here first; once Kanellis' career is done at Iowa, and if it's an a injury free career, he will be mentioned in the same breath as Matt Roth. I feel that he will approach Roth's sack totals, as he may have more ability off the edge than did Roth's pure bull rush and overpowering strength. I think Kanellis will get there, too, but with more speed and lateral quickness off the edge.

So that leaves one starting position up for grabs in our hypothetical rundown, and it is at defensive tackle.

Who will emerge?

I think it's safe to say there will be a healthy rotation all along the defensive line this year, as several players will get opportunities to play. Last year's front four started each and every game and played the overwhelming majority of the snaps. That should never be forgotten when remembering their contribution to that 10-2 season.

Roos is listed as the #1 on the media guide depth chart, which is by the way worth about as much as a soiled piece of Charmin right about now (the depth chart, not Roos, just for the purposes of clarification and to avoid any emails from those that might not have paid close enough attention.)

It's my opinion that true frosh Ryan Bain will have the chance to come in and earn some time here. It will be between Bain, Willcox, Ewen and Roos for this spot, and I would not write of Bain in the slightest, though he played mostly linebacker in high school and played with his hand on the ground for pretty much the first time while at the All American Bowl in San Antonio this past January.

I will give the first game start to Mattison, with Ewen in the mix, but all of these players will see time in the trenches this year.

Eshareturi really needs to kick things into another gear this August, or he is going to find himself flat out buried on the depth chart next fall.

This line will probably get gashed a time or four this year, but you had better get them this year; the future is absolutely white-hot for this group, and they should be able to take aim at the Iowa record book for fewest rushing yards allowed in a season in 2006 through 2008.


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories