Here is an inside look at the incoming defensive freshmen signed last February:
#26 CB Jovon Johnson:
We start off with possibly the biggest contributor as a freshman this fall. Jovon did very well in summer work-outs and the staff has penciled him to start off in helping the special teams. With Benny Sapp's possible departure, could Jovon's role really be stepped up? I would expect Jovon to earn a second string spot by the Big Ten season. Jovon also could figure in as a return man in the future.
#27 LB Edmond Miles:
Edmond will arrive as the partial qualifier in this incoming class, which may actually be a good thing. Iowa has a lot of young talent at LB, and Edmond may have been just too talented to leave off the field. Now Edmond will have the chance to add some size and muscle to his frame, and come in the spring competing with Kevin Worthy for the Will spot in the linebacker corp. In fact, how well Edmond does this fall could lead to a move of Chad Greenway to the Leo spot where Grant Steen currently starts.
#30 LB Ryan Majerus:
Ryan will use this year as a red-shirt as he is in need of some added muscle. Ryan is a good athlete and has a great frame at 6'4 215, but look for the staff to get him upwards of 230 before spring practice. Ryan is likely going to compete at the Leo position during the fall, but if he shows enough potential weight growth then he could be moved to the DL.
#39 FS Marcus Paschal:
Marcus enters the program as probably the least known incoming freshman. Marcus comes from a smaller program in Largo, FL where it was hard for him to gain a lot of attention. The staff liked what they saw on film, and will be counting on Marcus for the future in their defensive backfield. The Iowa coaches feel safety is the hardest position for a freshman to pick-up so expect Marcus to be red-shirted this year. His spot right now is being targeted as a free safety.
#41 CB Richie Williams:
HTO.com did its fair share of talking up Richie Wiliams this past recruiting season. There were some educated thoughts in Iowa City that Richie may have been the biggest sleeper landed in this class. Richie comes from an area in North Augusta, SC where Norm Parker produced two NFL CB's in Fred Vinson and Cory Chavous. Richie was coached very well and should be the most ready for the college system. Richie needs size at only 5'11 170, but his strength is good with a 280 bench press. Depending on Benny Sapp's situation, Richie could see himself on the field this upcoming year.
#47 DE Eric Zilisch:
Eric arrives with a lot of accolades and great compliments from his playing days in Wisconsin. Eric has great size and is only going to get bigger. Expect Eric to start at the Leo spot, much like Matt Neubauer of a year ago, and then he will likely be quickly switched to the DE spot. At 6'5, Eric has the frame to put on a lot of weight so if he is able to get over the 280 hurdle, he could also play inside a bit at the tackle position.
#54 LB Mike Elgin:
Mike is a very similar to Ryan Majerus, and will also need to add some size this fall. Mike is a versatile athlete and has good agility. The staff is not sure how much Ryan and Mike could put on their frame, but do not be surprised to see if the staff possibly explores trying to turn one of these guys into an interior lineman. Mike has shown a bigger mean streak so he is the more logical choice. However, keeping him at LB, where they are already stacked, will hurt his future playing time. The staff always felt Aaron Kampman could have been a great offensive tackle, could they explore that move with Mike?
#63 DT Larry Thomas:
Larry will be the first player bringing some of Miami Beach with him in a Hawkeye uniform. Larry is a bit small right now for DT, 6'1 270, so the staff will try to put some weight on him this fall. The staff will look at Larry very much the way they did Derrick Pickens. I would not expect Larry to ever get too much over 290, and his quickness will be the biggest asset at the DT spot. With limited depth at DT next spring, Larry will have the chance to earn a starting spot alongside Jared Clauss against Fabian Dodd and possibly Steve Burch.
#92 DT Steve Burch:
Speculation over Steve's possible playing position has been all over the board. He could be featured at LB, DE, or DT. Steve reported in great shape around the 270 area and everyone was surprised by just how big his frame is. Steve appears he could easily get in the 300 range without losing any of his quickness. While Steve could start out at DE this fall, he may also gain a little time on the inside. By spring practice, I would expect Steve to be moved to the inside where there will not be much depth after Colin Cole departs.
SUMMARY: The Hawks will get the earliest contributions from the defensive side the ball, but may lack a true star in potential like the offense does with a player like Calvin Davis.
Jovon Johnson and Steve Burch are the names that continually pop up as the guys who will make the biggest splash early. I would expect Jovon to give a great burst to the special teams play, and Steve should come in to give Norm Parker another playmaker on the line.
Richie Wiliams is still my sleeper pick in this class because of the system he comes from and his overall ability. Richie may not have the quickness of Jovon Johnson, but those two should form a very good cornerback tandem in the future.
I will be curious to see what Iowa does with Ryan Majerus and Mike Elgin. There status could also affect several current players, like Mike Follett, CJ Barkema, Andy Thorn, and Ben Gates. Iowa has to find some positions for these guys before they get too stacked at tight end and linebacker.