Opponents Previews: Iowa Defense

Badger Nation's opponents previews culminate with an overview of the Iowa Hawkeyes defense.

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Where did this come from? Iowa was tenacious last season, especially up front, where they absolutely manhandled teams in the box. The team gave up a lot of yards through the air, but part of that is due to the team's focus on stuffing the run. Iowa gave up more yards through the air than any team in the Big Ten, but they were third in pass efficiency defense and caused a lot of a havoc with a very strong pass rush and an opportunistic secondary. They succeeded fully in that respect, allowing about 82 yards a game. Seven starters return on defense including stars in defensive end Howard Hodges, outside linebacker Grant Steen and strong safety Bob Sanders.


Key 2002 Stats: NCAA rank in ( )


Scoring defense: 19.7 (24)


Rushing yards allowed: 81.9 (5)


Yards per carry:  2.56


Passing yards allowed: 273.38 (110)


Yards per pass: 6.64


Total defense, yards allowed: 355.31 (47)


Yards per play: 4.86


Turnovers forced: 31—11 fumbles recovered, 20 INT


Sacks: 40 for 235 yards


Defensive Line Analysis:


Only one starter departs, but he was a good one. Defensive tackle Colin Cole had 18 tackles for loss and nine sacks last season and was a second-team All American. Cole will be missed, but the Hawkeyes still have one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten.


Senior Howard Hodges is as good as any end in the league. He had 62 tackles, 11 TFL and nine sacks last season. Hodges is a force off the edge; a fantastic two-way end who will draw a lot of attention from opposing offenses.


The Hawkeyes return senior Jared Clauss at defensive tackle and another returning starter, junior Jonathan Babineaux, will move from end to tackle. Clauss tallied 59-10-6 last season; Babineaux 53-9-7. Clauss and Babineaux are strong against the run and solid pass rushers.


A player to watch is junior Matt Roth, who recorded a team-high 10 sacks along with 11 TFL and 48 tackles in a reserve role last season. Roth will start at defensive end this year and is a prime candidate for first team all-conference honors.


The top reserves are junior defensive ends Tyler Luebke and Derrick Robinson, senior defensive tackle Joey Helms and sophomore tackle Matt Neubauer.


Linebackers Analysis:


The team has to replace its best linebacker, but much as with the front four, there is plenty of talent in reserve. Fred Barr was an all-conference selection last season. Barr led the Hawkeyes with 114 tackles and recorded 10 tackles for loss. His 376 career tackles are fourth in team history.


Returning, however, is senior outside linebacker Grant Steen, a very good all-around player who was second-team all-Big Ten last season and should be primed for a big season. Steen had 57-5-1 last season. Steen is a sure tackler who can shed blockers and get into the backfield. He can also make plays in pass coverage as he proved last season when he set an NCAA record for linebackers with three interceptions in one game against Indiana. He also broke up four passes last season. Junior George Lewis, who is coming off a knee injury, and senior converted defensive back Jermire Roberts will back up Steen.


Heading into fall camp sophomores Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway were slated to start at the inside linebacker  positions. Hodge recorded 38 tackles and one sack in a reserve role last season but a strong spring pushed him ahead of Kevin Worthy, who started 13 games last season and recorded 84 tackles (second highest among returning Hawkeyes) and two sacks. Greenway played in eight games last season, recording 15 tackles. Redshirt freshman Edmond Miles will also be in the mix.


Secondary Analysis:


Two solid players, corner D.J. Johnson and safety Derek Pagel are gone, but there is a lot of talent on this unit.


The star is Bob Sanders, perhaps the best strong safety in the country. He is a terrifyingly strong hitter and a big-time play maker. Sanders was second on the team with 102 tackles and also contributed one sack, two interceptions and 12 pass break ups. He has started 28 games.


Junior Sean Considine will replace Pagel at free safety. Considine played 13 games and recorded 26 tackles. He also blocked two kicks.


Antwan Allen returns after starting all 13 games as a freshman. He had 60 tackles, two interceptions and nine PBU. On the other side, Jovan Johnson will replace D.J. Johnson. Jovan Johnson started two games last year as a freshman and intercepted four passes in a reserve role. He also had 31 tackles.


The top reserves are corners Chigozie Ejiasi, a junior, and redshirt freshman Richey Williams; safeties Chris Smith, a senior, and redshirt freshman Marcus Paschal


Final Thoughts


If defense truly wins championships, Iowa should not be counted out of the elite teams in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes defense is solid and potentially exceptional at every level, something few teams can claim. If the sophomore cornerbacks hold up well, this defense could well rise above the other elite units in the conference—Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan—and become the best defense in the Big Ten.


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