With the 2008
RETURNING STARTERS: 8
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
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
While King and Kroul were not mammoth tackles, with both of them going about 280 on the hoof, Klug is roughly 250 pounds while
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
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.