Spring Position Preview: The Linebackers

The Iowa Hawkeyes have had several outstanding linebackers during the Kirk Ferentz era. Levar Woods, Grant Steen, Fred Barr, Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge quickly come to mind. Mike Klinkenborg and Mike Humpal did an excellent job the past two seasons as well. Only A.J. Edds returns with a depth of experience for Iowa this year, but some young players are ready for their shot.

Iowa has had a very good run on solid play from its linebackers during the Kirk Ferentz era.  The Hawks say goodbye to a productive duo from last year, but there is some talent in the live well in addition to a veteran returning starter.


The Departed


Iowa lost two outstanding linebackers in Mike Humpal and Mike Klinkenborg to graduation. The pair accounted for 202 tackles last year as Humpal (123) and Klinkenborg (79) finished one-three, respectively, on Iowa's tackle charts. Humpal was a second team all-Big Ten pick while Klinkenborg, hampered by injuries, was an honorable mention honoree.


Klinkenborg had 224 career tackles while Humpal had 197. Klinkenborg also was first-team academic all-American and one of 15 scholar-athletes named as a finalist for the prestigious Draddy Award given by the National Football Foundation. Iowa lost a pair of leaders on and off the field


New Assignments


Something new this year will be the person in charge of the linebackers.  Darrell Wilson, who's been in charge of outside linebackers for the past six years, will add the other two linebacking positions to his coaching duties. Eric Johnson, who previously worked with the tight ends, will help Wilson with the linebackers, in addition to his recruiting coordinator responsibilities.  Norm Parker, who did work with the linebackers, is now concentrating on the entire defense while turning over the specific linebacking chores to Wilson and Johnson.


Who's On Campus


Iowa will be looking for new talent to seize the opportunity at two linebacking positions. Listed first at WILL linebacker is sophomore Jeff Tarpinian (6-3, 220). He played in 10 games and had 13 tackles. Backing him up will be sophomores Jeremiha Hunter (6-2, 222) and Troy Johnson (6-2, 215). Hunter played in nine games and had 10 tackles while Johnson played in all 12 games, primarily on special teams.


Sophomore Jacody Coleman (6-3, 240) is listed as the top MIKE linebacker.  Coleman played in nine games, had 24 tackles and four tackles for loss.  Starting the spring behind Coleman will be junior Pat Angerer (6-1, 230) and redshirt freshman Bruce Davis (5-11, 225). Angerer played sparingly in four games and had just one tackle.


Iowa will return of  starting outside linebacker A.J. Edds (6-4, 244). Edds, a junior next year, was Iowa's second leading tackler last season with 80 stops and 3.5 tackles for loss. Edds, a strong candidate for all-Big Ten honors this year, was steady in starting all 12 games for the Hawkeyes last year. He played as a true freshman, in 2006, starting once.


Behind Edds are sophomore Dezman Moses (6-2, 215) and redshirt freshman Tyler Nielsen (6-4, 215). Moses played in every game last season and collected eight tackles and one tackle for loss. The Hawkeyes need to develop depth at this position.


Who's On the Way


Brad Herman (6-5, 225) and Khalif Staten (6-3, 219) are the only two linebackers that Iowa signed from this past recruiting class.  The Hawkeyes did sign other players who played the position at the high school level, but they will be playing other positions. 


While the Hawkeyes are not long on returning experience at this position, they have a lot of young players filling up the depth chart.  It's doubtful that either Herman or Staten will see any playing time in 2008, so this spring is very important for the position.


The 2008 Outlook


Klinkenborg and Humpal were very, very solid performers.  In my opinion, Humpal might have been the MVP of the team last year on both sides of the ball.  He was very athletic and was one of the best linebackers in pass coverage of the Kirk Ferentz era.


Coleman got a chance to see some significant playing time due to the injuries that Klinkenborg had to play through.  He proved to be very instinctive and athletic, but like many young players, got sucked up into the flow on a few occasions.  But he showed a knack for getting to the ball and doing so in a hurry.  ‘Typically', your middle linebacker is not going to be out in pass coverage all that often, unless a team goes five or six wide on you (see Iowa State last season).  Angerer should push Coleman as long as he can stay healthy, something he has battled in his young career.  We all saw his amazing effort in Bettendorf's state championship game a few years ago and know the kind of athlete he is.


Jeff Tarpinian will have the first crack at filling the deep WILL lineage that Iowa has been developing.  Humpal was just a superb athlete as we have mentioned, and he replaced Chad Greenway, perhaps the best WILL linebacker to ever play at Iowa.  Hunter was a highly regarded linebacker in high school while Johnson flew under the radar playing for one of the best high school teams in the nation his senior year.


Edds is a natural and a great athlete in his own right.  He can handle the kickout blocks by pulling linemen and fullbacks and has shown a decent knack working in pass coverage.


On the whole, Iowa's linebacking corps could take a few steps forward in overall athleticism, but what it puts forth in assignment discipline will tell a big tale.  Also, the front four should put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year and may be more disruptive in getting penetration in stopping the run, so the linebackers could be set up for a fine season playing behind what could become one of the better defensive lines in the league.





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