Iowa football: Analyzing the defensive depth chart

Iowa football

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz has released the preseason depth chart which doesn’t include too many surprises.

Iowa football just recently released their preseason depth chart and while there aren’t too many surprises, it is worth taking a look at. A lot can change after August practices and probably more than one player will impress coaches enough to unseat someone ahead them. Here is the defense with my personal notes and observations.

[Iowa football: Analyzing the offensive depth chart]

Defensive End:

Drew Ott, Jr.; Nate Meier Jr.

Ott returns for his third season as the starter. The coaches have been saying how they think he will be very productive this season. It does help going up against one of the best left tackles in the nation in Brandon Scherff every day in practice. Meier will most likely see some time in the raider package as a pass rusher. He is only around 245 pounds so he is mostly a situational pass rusher right now.

Mike Hardy Sr.; Riley McMinn Jr.; Melvin Spears Jr.

Hardy gets his first season as the full time starter. He probably won’t have an amazing season but he will be very solid, especially against the run. McMinn and Spears will be fighting for the minutes behind Hardy with McMinn getting the majority of them. Right now it looks like McMinn is the heir to this spot after Hardy graduates but there is a long time before that happens.

Defensive Tackles:

Louis Trinca-Pasat Sr.; Jaleel Johnson So.; Nathan Bazata Fr RS.

Trinca-Pasat has the potential to be a first or second team all-Big Ten player. As long as he continues to improve on last season, he is going to be a monster in the middle. He eats up so many blockers giving space for the linebackers and other players (like Carl Davis) to make plays. Jaleel Johnson looks to be the starter next year with his size making him perfect for the position. At 6-4 310 pounds, he will be a monster if he starts playing with his pads lower. Bazata still has a ways to go but as a freshman redshirt he is learning quickly.

Carl Davis Sr.; Darian Cooper Jr.; Faith Ekakitie So.

Carl Davis is ready for a mammoth season. Already projected to be a potential first rounder and all-Big Ten player; he is ready to explode onto the scene. He has rare athleticism at 6-5 315 pounds which makes him a great talent. Behind him is Cooper, a former four star that is just waiting for his moment to shine. He has shown in limited playing time that he is very skilled, but has unluckily been behind two of the best defensive tackles in the Big Ten. He will perform very well when he is on the field though. Ekakitie is still very raw but he is coming into his own as a player. Iowa has found themselves with a wealth of defensive tackles this year.

Outside Linebacker:

Travis Perry Jr.; Josey Jewell Fr RS.; Bo Bower Fr Rs.

Travis Perry is one of the many Hawkeyes that have seen themselves on top of the depth chart as a former walk on; let’s just hope that he is as good as some of the previous ones. Ferentz has said that he is great in coverage, which is one of the most important things needed for an Iowa linebacker. As long as he is also solid in run support, he will do great for the Hawks. Jewell is a redshirt freshman that has gotten a ton of attention from the coaching staff this offseason. Linebacker coaches LeVar Woods and Jim Reid have lauded Jewell’s natural ability. They have said that he has come leaps and bounds from last season. Look for him to see the field sooner rather than later. Bower will most likely just see time during blowouts.

Middle Linebacker:

Quinton Alston Sr.; Chad Gilson Sr. or John Kenny Fr RS.

Ferentz has consistently called Alston a “returning starter” as he has played quite a bit throughout his career at Iowa. He isn’t afraid of a drop in play from Morris to Alston he has said. If Ferentz isn’t too worried about Alston, that’s good enough for me. Gilson and Kenny are fighting for the little minutes that Alston will leave them. Kenny looks to be a little ahead of Gilson as he is very athletic and has been picking up the playbook very quickly. Keep an eye on this battle in case Alston goes down with an injury.

Weakside Linebacker:

Reggie Spearman So.; Cole Fischer Jr. or John Kenny FR RS.

There has been much talk about Spearman’s age as he is only turning 18 in eight days but not as much talk about his play. As a true freshman last year he saw the field quite a bit, showing blazing speed when rushing the quarterback. It will be interesting to see how well he plays in the first season as a first time starter. I’m a big fan of his so I’m guessing he will have a great season. If he doesn’t, most likely it will be a combination of Cole Fischer or Kenny replacing him.

Cornerback:

Maurice Fleming So. or Sean Draper Jr.; Greg Mabin So.

This is the number one positional battle to watch this August. The coaches haven’t revealed which one has the edge over the other right now. If I had to guess I think that Fleming will be the one seeing the majority of the playing time this fall. Draper has the experience over Fleming as he played a lot at the start of last season but Fleming played more in the last six games than Draper. I think that Fleming will continue to ride that momentum. That is just a guess though; it could easily be Draper starting.

Backup Mabin is a very interesting player to watch as he just recently moved to corner from wide receiver. He is huge at 6-2 and has great athleticism, but he needs more time to learn the position. If he shows that he knows how to do all the little things that are required to be an Iowa corner, look for him to see the field a lot.

Desmond King So.; Malik Rucker FR RS.

Last season as a true freshman, King dominated the competition. He proved to be the best cornerback on the team, even better than senior B.J. Lowery last season. He is truly a shutdown corner and will only get better. Hopefully he doesn’t go through a sophomore slump as Iowa really needs him to play well if they have a shot at the Big Ten West title. Backup Rucker will probably see some time as the coaches think that he is really good, but most of the time should be in blowouts.

Strong Safety:

John Lowdermilk Sr.; Kevin Ward Fr RS.

Lowdermilk looks to improve on a very impressive season last year where he contended for all-Big Ten honors. He will have to lead a group of young players in the backfield and make sure no one is out of position. Look to him to have a very strong season. Ward probably won’t see the field much this season except in blowouts. Look for him to see the field a lot next season though.

Free Safety:

Jordan Lomax Jr.; Anthony Gair So.; Solomon Warfield Fr Rs.;

Lomax is making the change to cornerback to safety and we have yet to see if it will be effective. He played some safety in high school and the coaches have said that he looks natural there. Hopefully Lomax will shore up a position that has been somewhat of a problem the last couple of seasons. Gair and Warfield will be fighting for the spot if Lomax doesn’t play up to expectations. Gair has the lead over Warfield, especially because Warfield is still so small. Warfield is still only 180 pounds which would be the smallest safety Iowa has had in a number of years.