Defensive Practice Report: Position By Position

HTO.com is coming right back with another exclusive in-depth practice report, this time on the defensive side of the ball. The Hawk defenders are stepping up and are primed for their biggest year yet. Will inexperience haunt the Hawkeyes or will talent overcome youth?

Defensive Line:
There is no question about Colin Cole and Jared Clauss's ability. Its fully expected that this tandem will be even better than the tandem of Pickens and Montgomery last year. Many people haven't mentioned Clauss, but he will be a force with his size in stopping the running game. Fabian Dodd continues to improve and get in better shape. Fabian is one of the strongest performers, but needs to continue to gain stamina and lose baby fat. He should be a key performer next year, along with true freshman Steve Burch. Steve has already shown to be one of the most athletic DT's Iowa has ever had, and he will get playing time before Big Ten play starts. Steve will have to get bigger in the off-season, but expect him to battle Fabian Dodd for the starting position. Scott Webb and OJ Payne give the Hawkeyes depth and both will come in to give a breather or two. As its been reported on Larry Thomas, his maturiy has really helped him out early, but he will need to add size at only 6'1 270. Larry should be a fine contributor before he leaves Iowa, though.

Defensive End:
Howard Hodges has continued to step up this fall with a bigger body at 250 pounds. He is expected to lead this team in sacks. Howard has great explosiveness and had added an aresenal of moves to help his pass rushing skills. Jon Babineaux has been solid in practice, and at 265, the staff will expect him to be more the run stopper. Jon has good quickness and strength, and should be a very capable DE in the Big Ten. Matt Roth has shown flashes of being a very good DE, but also has had a few inconsistent moments. Matt has a very bright future at DE, and he will get plenty of playing time this fall as the #3 DE. Derreck Robinson is another guy with a bright future and great frame. Derreck will just need to put his past troubles behind him and concentrate on football.

Warren McDuffie is another freshman that has came in better than expected. Warren has great bloodlines, and is a very athletic DE. He will need to bulk up at only 235, but he should be ready to compete for playing time this spring. Mike Elgin is starting out at DE, and also has had some nice moments. Mike will need time to progress, but he has a future at DE. Eric Zilisch has sat out the majority of practice. The staff was looking for toughness from Zilisch, rather than McDuffie. Eric will need to step up, but he has plenty of time to do so.

Linebacker:
Fred Barr will be expected to have a very solid senior season, and should be in line for some post-season accolades. Kevin Worthy now has a little comfort knowing he doesn't have Chad Greenway breathing down his neck, and Kevin has been doing his job on the practice field. Speaking of Chad Greenway, he is on his way back from the injury, and should be one of the most exciting performers on the squad this fall with his sideline to sideline speed. This spring, Kevin will have plenty of competition from Chad for that starting job. Abdul Hodge is another exciting young performer. Abdul is one of the more physical performers and should have a great career being the starter at MLB for the next three seasons. Mike Follett has not been a disappointment, and has a good frame, but unfortunately he is having a problem finding a position that is not stacked. Mike should be a fill-in this fall, but expect him in the two deeps this spring.

Grant Steen continues to be one of Norm Parker's favorites and he will be relied on to help the young defensive ends this fall. George Lewis continues to impress with athletic ability, but he still has to continue to pick-up the defensive system mentally. Edmond Miles looks bigger than 215, but he will still need to add a bit of weight. He has started to look more sharp on the practice field, and he should be a guy to watch for this spring. Ryan Majerus's main concern right now will be to add weight.

Defensive Backs:
Bob Sanders is Bob Sanders. Enough said. Derek Pagel will be a great partner at FS. The staff is still waiting for Jermire Roberts to break out, but he needs to show more motivation. Chris Smith has been a very hard worker, and will be the favorite to be #1 at FS this spring. Freshman Marcus Paschal has also been impressive at safety. Expect his future to be at strong safety unless recruiting changes that this year. Marcus has good size and speed.

Antwan Allen's criticism last fall was whether he was mature enough to take off with an opporunity. Antwan improved a bit in the spring, but has shown tremendous improvement so far in fall practice. Antwan is not looking back now with the starting job in hand. Expect him to be even better than Benny Sapp in defending the deep pass. However, the staff is worried about how much Antwan will get pushed around and his ability to go up against taller WR's. Sean Considine is still a staff favorite with his work ethic and heart, and will prove to be the back-up to Antwan. Chijosie Ejasi has been the most improved CB this fall as he has picked up his speed and pass coverage. Right now, he is ahead of Jovon Johnson as the bac-up to DJ Johnson. As Jovon continues to learn, that may not hold true forever. However, this fall there should not be as much concern over "Chick" being on the field. HTO.com has sung the praises of DJ Johnson all summer, and it is still expected he will take over right where he left off last fall. He has the tools to even have a better senior season than that experienced by Matt Stockdale up until the Michigan game last year.

This defense, overall, has more speed and athleticism than any other Hawk defense in recent memory. Now, the main concern will be getting some of these young guys to maximize their full potential.


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