Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Defensive line


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Redshirt freshman Darian Cooper summed up Iowa’s defensive line in 11 words on the team’s media day earlier this month: “Who knows who’s going to have to step up and play.”

For instance: Louis Trinca-Pasat has seen one game in a Black and Gold uniform. He has recorded 1 assistant tackle.

But the sophomore has more game experience than the majority of Iowa’s defensive line this season. Thirteen names make the D-line roster, but the entire position combines for 70 total tackles, 30 solo tackles, 48 games, and 13 starts.

There are six returning players and two returning starters — Steve Bigach, and Dominic Alvis.
The Hawkeyes don’t deny that they’re inexperienced on the line, but don’t believe they’ll bring down the rest of the Iowa squad.

“It’s no secret that we’re young, and when you’re young there’s going to be some hiccups and some growing pains,” Bigach said. “But also when you’re young, there’s an opportunity for a big learning curve.”

Some of the younger line members — redshirt freshman Darian Cooper and sophomore Carl Davis — are expected to make a great impact on the Hawkeyes’ defense this season. Cooper stands 6-2, 280 pounds, and Davis is 6-5, 310.

“We have some depth with our group right now,” defensive-line coach Reese Morgan said. “… If they play together as a unit, if they have the synergy, the trust, the belief in each other, and they’re playing within the scheme, you can do some pretty good things.”

The youngsters are hungry, Alvis said, and talented. And although they’re inexperienced, they bring the Iowa D-line what it needs this season: depth.

Morgan predicts that six to eight athletes will be ready come the season-opener on Sept. 1, and they will be able to rotate on and off the field. Having more bodies that are battle-ready will keep the pressure off the returning starters.

“Fresh horses, that’s what you need — especially when you’re playing defensive line,” Alvis said.
The learning curve the young defensive line faces is significant, but the entire position — from the experienced Bigach down to the true freshmen — has spent the entire preseason taking it one day at a time, focusing on simply improving, just a little, every practice.

“If we make an improvement every day, I know we will turn heads in the fall,” Davis said. “People can say, ‘Wow, their defense is good.’ It’s just repetition that will get us there.”

The defensive line might be young, yes, but no lineman is naïve — they understand what is expected of them and what they’re going to have to do to defend against a fast Big Ten conference that’s steadily becoming more offensively focused.

“We understand that we’re a young group, and the room for error is small here,” Cooper said. “And [we know] that the defensive line has been a backbone for the University of Iowa for a long time.”

For Hawkeye fans that are used to such names as Mike Daniels, Karl Klug, and Adrian Clayborn, there isn’t one star on the line this year.

This year, the success of the defensive line hinges on linemen with unrecognized names who can step up, record tackles, and keep the defensive strategy functioning.

And they’re ready to accept the responsibility.

“Nobody really knows me,” Trinca-Pasat said. “Nobody really knows most of the names on our line. But for the whole D-line, everyone is saying that we have something to prove … as a team, we’re trying to prove something.”

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