Look Ahead: 2009 Iowa Defense

The 2008 Iowa defense was one of the best in school history, statistically. It was pretty darn good in real life, too. The 2009 Iowa defense has some huge shoes to fill, but the good news is that 8 of the 11 2008 starters return for 2009, and nine of next year's projected starters will be back for 2010, as well. Jon Miller takes a quick look ahead to next year's defense...

With the 2008 Iowa football season barely in the rearview mirror, here is an early look at the 2009 Iowa defense.



KEY LOSSES:  Mitch King, Matt Kroul, Bradley Fletcher


It will be impossible to replace Mitch King, a player that Norm Parker called the best defensive lineman he has coached at Iowa.  The adjustment period to watching Iowa football without Mitch King will be like it was when Bob Sanders moved on to the NFL.  Matt Kroul will also be a significant loss, a player that did the dirty work for his 51 games as a starter, a school record for Iowa.  Bradley Fletcher had an exceptional senior season, and he and Amari Spievey combined to make up the most formidable cornerback tandem in the Kirk Ferentz era, if not one of the best in the last 30 years of Iowa football.


The good news is that the eight other starters on defense will return, and the players that will step in to fill those positions are not unknown commodities.


Karl Klug and Mike Daniels will have the early crack at replacing King and Kroul on the inside. Klug was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week back in September coming out of a reserve role.  The coaching staff has been high on him since he arrived at Iowa, but some early injuries kept him off the field.  That, and King and Kroul's ironman like durability.  Daniels is someone the staff has been very high on this year, and he has come on strong during his redshirt freshman campaign.


While King and Kroul were not mammoth tackles, with both of them going about 280 on the hoof, Klug is roughly 250 pounds while Daniels is around 260.  Will Iowa have two defensive ends in Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard weighing more than their starting tackles?  Those two are in the 280-pound range.


That just doesn't seem to add up, and one of Clayborn or Ballard moving inside seems to make quite a bit of sense.  It makes more sense when you think about Broderick Binns occupying one of the defensive end positions, and he played a lot of snaps late in the year, sharing time with Ballard.  You can also throw Chad Geary's name into the mix, plus that of Cody Hundertmark, who will be over 280 pounds next fall and redshirted this year.


There may  be a few other names to note after spring practice, but once the smoke settles in late August, I believe the Hawkeyes are going to be able to rotate several players along the front line next year, and that group will be solid.  It might not be as disruptive as this year's group was, mostly due to the subtraction of Mitch King. 


At linebacker, all three of Iowa's starters return in AJ Edds, Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter.  The backups return as well; Jacody Coleman, Jeff Tarpinian, Troy Johnson and Tyler Nielsen.  This is going to be a very, very competent group, something you definitely want to see when there are a couple of questions on the front line ahead of them.  Iowa may have the luxury of playing more 3-4 next year, if that's how the dust settles.


On the backside, Brett Greenwood, Amari Spievey and Tyler Sash return, as do all of their backups.  Jordan Bernstine and Shaun Prater will battle for the available cornerback position, with Bernstine being the far more physical player at this time (5-11, 203 as opposed to 5-10, 173).  Prater will put on some weight and muscle this offseason, and whomever emerges as the starter will likely have a few balls thrown their way early to give them a test.  That, and because teams probably won't want to throw Spievey's way; Amari has two more years of eligibility remaining.


One of the most amazing aspects of next year's defense is the two deep roster will be names that are somewhat known, with only a few exceptions.  A look ahead to 2010 shows 10 returning starters, with just Angerer and Edds as seniors in 2009.


The 2008 defense has left some incredible shoes to fill, but the 2009 defense is going to make a name for itself, I have no doubt about that.





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