Daniels anchors inexperienced D-line for the Hawkeyes

BY MATT COZZI | AUGUST 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Mike Daniels had never been listed on Iowa’s two-deeps prior to last season.

The Blackwood, N.J., native was in the defensive-line rotation, but it was rare to find his name in the box score.

But under the tutelage of current NFL rookies Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug, among others, Daniels emerged as a consistent pass-rush threat in 2010.

The senior defensive lineman recorded 40 tackles — including 11 for a loss — and had four quarterback sacks last season, and he is poised to lead the Hawkeyes’ defensive line this year.

Defensive end Broderick Binns, who was in the same recruiting class as Daniels, said he wasn’t surprised by his teammate’s breakout season.

“Mike’s a beast. He works hard [and] gives 110 percent every down,” Binns said at Iowa’s media day on Aug. 5. “I think he’s a guy who I thrive off and the whole team can thrive off. He’s out here, excited, gets everyone else going.

“It’s good to have a guy like him on your team.”

With the departure of Clayborn and Klug, Binns and Daniels are now the veterans.

Daniels said he understands he’ll have to step into a leadership role, both on the gridiron and off it.

“You just have to be honest with people, because if you’re not, they can’t be honest with themselves,” he said. “I’m not the first guy in the program who’s done that, but it’s learned behavior.

The older guys taught me to speak up and put people in line … if you don’t, you leave them out to dry.”

Aside from the veteran pair, senior defensive end LeBron Daniel is the only projected starter who has received significant playing time. Senior Thomas Nardo, sophomore Dominic Alvis, and redshirt freshman Carl Davis — all competing for the remaining tackle spot — have a combined 10 games played between them.

Additionally, true freshman Darian Cooper, a highly recruited tackle out of DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), is expected to have an opportunity to play.

“[Binns and Daniels] look like the two most experienced guys,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said after Iowa’s open practice on Aug. 13. “After that, we have a bunch of guys who are working hard. Some good competition there, so we’ll just see how it goes … We’ll probably play six to eight guys. Cooper might be in the mix; he’s done some good things [in fall camp].”

Make no mistake, though: Daniels will be the one to anchor the group, Ferentz noted.

Linebacker James Morris agreed.

“Fierce would be a good word to describe Mike,” the sophomore said. “He’s a fun guy to play with. The energy he brings, I think that has an effect on everybody else on our defense.”

Similar to his predecessors, Daniels will likely get his opportunity in the professional ranks. Heading into the Hawkeyes’ season-opener this Saturday, the NFL draft is far from his mind, however.

“I’m just trying to do the right thing all the time,” he said. “The [defensive line] will come together. Our team is as good as it wants to be.”

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