2014 Position Previews: Defensive Line

BY DANNY PAYNE | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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The off-season has been dominated with talk about Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis and rightfully so. The 6-5, 315-pound monster is one of the top defensive linemen in the country and can create nightmares for opposing offenses.

That doesn’t mean he’s the only guy in the Hawkeyes’ front four who is going to make an impact in 2014. Quite the opposite, actually.

Louis Trinca-Pasat, who will enter his third season as a starter, plays alongside Davis. He’s a high-motor guy who racked up 38 tackles last season, 8 for a loss.

“He’s got experience, he’s got the most experience of anybody in our front,” defensive line coach Reese Morgan said. “He’s earned the respect of everybody in our group — and hopefully on the team — by his style of play.”

On the outside, junior Drew Ott started every game but one last season after seeing the field in the second half of his freshman year. Nate Meier and Mike Hardy are also veterans that are eager to make an impact — something this unit is going to need for the defense to be successful.

The line is the group that will lead the Hawkeyes defensively. Sure, Quinton Alston is a powerful presence at middle linebacker and has stepped into a leadership role. And yes, Desmond King and John Lowdermilk are good in the defensive backfield.

Just as it was with linebackers James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey last season, Davis, Trinca-Pasat, and the like are poised to lead defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s unit.

“Obviously, that helps when they can help the linebackers,” Parker said. “… It happens every year; you’re always going to have strengths, and you’re always going to have weaknesses … they are the strength of the team.”

The biggest unknown on the defensive line comes inside after Davis and Trinca-Pasat. After Darian Cooper underwent season-ending surgery Monday, the Hawkeyes are left with Nathan Bazata, Jaleel Johnson, and Faith Ekakitie, who have all played sparingly.

“Jaleel, Faith, Nate, they’ve all just been working,” Trinca-Pasat said. “Everybody has to get better, but they’re all just doing work.”

Should one or two of those young Hawkeyes step up, this unit has the chance to be something special. Davis, Trinca-Pasat, Hardy, and Ott combined for 164 tackles and allowed the group of linebackers to have the season they did last year.

As a unit, the job isn’t so much to rack up tackles as it is to free up space for the linebackers to move around and have space to make plays.

“Just take on blocks,” Trinca-Pasat said about his responsibilities. “Get off blocks as well as trying to make plays, that’s pretty much it.”

As Trinca-Pasat referred to, in some instances, the unit can go unnoticed while the glory happens behind them. With or without the spotlight, the front four have the potential a strong point on defense this season.

“We are the most experienced group; it’s a good group of guys, they’ve been great to work with,” Morgan said. “… Regardless, we’re going to be a factor in this defense — it’s not going to be making plays as much as just doing our job.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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