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Notebook: Iowa defense accelerating

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said a word not often uttered in the Hayden Fry Football Complex during a press conference on Wednesday.

It was the B-word.

"Blitz."

Parker had been asked about what his plans are to protect a young defensive line, a unit that lost three starters from last year's squad and has further been depleted this spring by injuries.

"We'll add guys to the box a little bit, whether it's a secondary guy or bring a little bit more blitz, but we're going to make sure we help those guys out up front," he said.

Parker flashed a small, almost sheepish grin when asked if he had really just said the B-word.

"Sometimes, you have to," he said. "We need to help [the defensive line] out … they can't always be sitting targets."

The Iowa defense received its share of criticism under former defensive coordinator Norm Parker for being conservative; most of the pressure placed on opposing quarterbacks was generated by the defensive line. Blitzes coming from linebackers and secondary players were rare, although they tended to work fairly well when they were called.

While Phil Parker worked under Norm Parker for 13 years, the Hawkeyes' first-year coordinator said fans could reasonably expect to see a handful of changes during the team's open practice on Saturday.

Most of those changes will be made, at least initially, to help the line. Parker said he has put more pressure on the secondary to cheat down toward the trenches to mop up mistakes if necessary.

"It looks like they took the challenge," Parker said. "… They've done a good job — but it's not a game situation yet. It's still practice."

Cornerbacks Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery will likely show more shutdown one-on-one coverage than in the past, which will free the safeties to slash forward if it's successful.

"When you have two [corners] out there that can lock down pretty much anybody they throw out there, it makes my job a whole lot easier," safety Tanner Miller said. "I can focus on coming down on the run more without having to worry about those two receivers out wide."

And all of those changes will help the linebackers play more aggressively, presumptive weakside starter Anthony Hitchens said.

"When you're a linebacker, you always want to blitz — that's the best part about playing linebacker," he said with a broad smile. "It'll help us out a lot … it'll be a positive thing for our defense."

Open practice notes

The Hawkeyes will spend most of the Saturday open practice performing drills, but will play one organized quarter of a simulated game as well. That section of the practice will serve as an important test for the players, offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.

"There's no last-minute coaching going on when you break the huddle," Davis said. "It gives you a chance to see what the players know and understand — as opposed to, as you break the huddle, saying be alert for this blitz, be alert for this, or whatever.

"That's the positive of it, is when you're off the field, you truly find out what they know."

The practice begins at noon at Kinnick Stadium, and is free of charge. The gates will open at 10 a.m., and fans can participate in several activities in the Krause Family Plaza near the south end zone.

Activities include a chance to vote on designs for the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

The first 1,000 fans to bring cash or a nonperishable food item for the America Needs Farmers Food Bank Drive will receive "souvenir America Needs Farmers items," according to a release. Collection trucks will be stationed near the Krause Family Plaza and in Lot 43, west of the stadium.

Parking will be limited because of construction projects, so the Athletics Department recommends parking in the lots near Carver-Hawkeye Arena and in the Finkbine Commuter Lot. Parking ramps will charge their normal rates.

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.


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