Sneak Peek: Projecting 2010 LB Depth Chart

In the seventh part of the series looking at the depth chart at each position for 2010, Hawkeye Insider dives into vacancies at linebacker. Who steps in for Edds and Angerer? Will any of the true freshmen see the field? HI.com ties to answer those questions and more in Sneak Peek.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer will be missed. Their penchant for making fun of each other entertained us.

Oh yeah, and they played linebacker pretty well.

Outside of offensive line, linebacker was the position hit hardest by players leaving the program. Edds excelled at LEO better than any other person in the Kirk Ferentz era. Angerer's athleticism was superior to any other MIKE in the coach's 11 seasons.

Transition at linebacker should be eased by star power on the defensive line, but opponents will test the middle, especially early in the season.

Let's take a look at our projected LB depth chart in Hawkeye Insider's latest installment of Sneak Peek:

No. 1 WILL Jeremiha Hunter, RS Senior - Hunter was overshadowed by Edds and Angerer, but he really broke out last season with 83 tackles. He missed two games due to injury.

Hunter needs to emerge as a leader this season with two years as a starter under his belt. He's a pretty quiet guy, so it might have to come from actions instead of words.

No. 2 WILL Jeff Tarpinian, RS Senior - Tarp was ahead of Hunter a few years ago before suffering through a series of injuries. He pushed Hunter again last spring and summer but could not unseat him.

I think Tarp ends up at this spot on the depth chart but he's going to be the utility linebacker. He can back up all three spots and will be utilized in 3-4 alignments. He also stands out on special teams.

No. 1 MIKE Troy Johnson, RS Senior - A special teams rock for several years, Johnson received an opportunity in last season's regular-season finale against Minnesota. In a shutout of the Gophers, he collected 10 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered it.

No. 2 MIKE Bruce Davis, RS Junior - Davis also has paid his dues on special teams. He and Johnson were expected to enter spring engaged in one of the more heated competitions on the roster.

I'm a lean towards Johnson winning the spot because I believe he's more complete, but I think the Ohio native, Davis, also sees reps and wouldn't be shocked to see him win the battle.

No. 1 LEO Tyler Nielsen, RS Junior - The Iowa native spent the last three seasons being groomed behind Edds. He's cut his teeth on special teams and gets the stamp of approval by his predecessor.

Nielsen played in the US Army Bowl for prep all-Americans. He won a state title in the 400 meters as a senior.

No. 2 LEO James Morris, TR Freshman - OK. Maybe I'm stepping out on a little bit of a limb here, but I believe this is a completely realistic possibility. Morris is that good.

Others to Watch

Lance Tillison - Louisiana native returns to Iowa City after a year away. I really liked what I saw from this kid when he made the switch from DB to LB. He can hit.

Shane DiBona - Redshirt freshman is an intriguing prospect with good athletic ability. He'll likely need another year of development at the position but could contribute on special teams.

Austin Gray - With the lack of depth on this unit, I could see Gray playing as a true freshman. He is the heir apparent at Mike.

Jim Poggi - It will be interesting to see at what spot Poggi proves most effective. I'll take a stab it and say he gets his first look at WILL.

Christian Kirksey - He'll need a year with Doyle but offers excellent athletic ability and has a pretty high ceiling.

Ross Peterson - Former walk-on from Durant has played well on special teams and filling in where needed.

Terrence Pryor - Walk-on from Illinois begins his third season on the roster.


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