D-Line play encouraging at spring game

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa defense wasn't allowed to hit Hawkeye quarterbacks during the team's spring scrimmage on April 16.

After watching the pocket collapse and the passers repeatedly forced to hurry their throws, head coach Kirk Ferentz said that was a good thing.

"We have three [quarterbacks] out there right now," Ferentz said. "And the way we've protected them during the spring at times, we may need eight quarterbacks. I'm not sure we could get through September the way we've protected this spring."

The defensive line that put so much pressure on the Hawkeyes' quarterbacks — and earned the offensive line that harsh critique — didn't feature former stars Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug. It might be the most inexperienced unit on the team. And unlike previous seasons, in which the starting lineman played a majority of the team's snaps, this season will likely feature a defensive line by committee. Ferentz said as many as eight linemen could see significant time.

Leading the group are senior end Broderick Binns and tackle Mike Daniels, who combined for 76 tackles last season. Daniels said he hopes to take on some of the leadership role left by Clayborn.

Defensive coordinator Norm Parker said Daniels has great leverage and strength and praised his work ethic.

"He likes to play football," Parker said. "He's a go-getter in practice, and he's got a motor. He turns it on, and he goes and goes and goes. He'll do everything you ask him to."

But after Binns and Daniels, playing experience is scarce on the defensive line. The six other players listed on the team's two-deeps have a combined 16 career tackles.

Redshirt freshman Carl Davis made a strong impression this spring after returning from an injury. The 6-5, 310-pound Davis figures to emerge next to Daniels in the interior line, and his strong performances in practice have Parker encouraged.

"Carl is a big guy. But quite athletic," Parker said. "He's a 300-pounder that can dunk a basketball and do all that stuff. He's working hard, and he takes coaching."

Lebron Daniel is listed on the team's depth chart as the starting end opposite Binns. The senior has eight career tackles and recorded a sack last season, and Daniels said his teammate should emerge as a solid player.

"He's very tough and very fast," Daniels said. "He's really grown up. You can tell he's been here for a while. You put him out there, and he does things right. He plays like an older guy is supposed to play."

Seniors Joe Forgy and Thomas Nardo, junior Steve Bigach, and sophomore Dominic Alvis all could see playing time as well. Ferentz said Alvis in particular improved over the spring and "is coming along."

With so much inexperience along the line, Binns said, the group needs to focus on "the little things," such as getting in the proper alignments and knowing the defensive play calls.

But as evidenced by their performance in the scrimmage, the talent is there to successfully move past the Clayborn-Ballard era. And the offensive line can attest to that.

"Those guys are tough to guard," center James Ferentz said. "They play physical football. They're not afraid of anybody. You've got to love having them on the other side of the ball."

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