April 20, 2006
Spring Rewind: Who stepped up on defense?
The Hawkeyes went into the spring with plenty of questions to be answered at linebacker and defensive back following the graduation of four long-time starters. With names like Greenway, Hodge, Allen, and Johnson moving on, have the new names like Mike Humpal, Charles Godfrey, and Mike Klinkenborg taken hold of starting spots? Who will push for playing time this fall?
DL: Easily the strongest and deepest position on the defense coming into the spring and that did not change as we head to the summer and fall. The front four returned in tact and no one has pushed any of those players out of their spot at this point. At the end position, Kenny Iwebema and Bryan Mattison look even better than they did at the end of last season. Both have added a few more pounds and even more quickness. Plus they have both added a few new wrinkles to their pass rushing skill set. In the middle, Mitch King has bulked up even more since the end of the year and is now pushing 270 pounds with the same level of quickness that made him a breakout player last season. Matt Kroul was solid and workman-like in the middle of the defense. He might not make the flashy plays like King, but he holds his own against the run plugging up the middle.
Ron Aiken would like to have a fairly deep rotation this fall and there will be plenty of competition to lock up those spots. The tackle position will be very interesting with Ryan Bain, Vernon Jackson, and Ettore Ewen battling for snaps. Bain was having a very good spring before he injured his knee. He should be full speed by the time the summer workouts get underway and it would not be surprising to see him vie for some of Kroul's snaps this fall. Jackson was one player who really helped himself this spring and has made a very positive impression on the coaches. He has shown to be a quick learner and tough in the middle. Ewen is the "x" factor this fall. He was held out of spring drills, but the coaches are very curious about what he can do if he can stay healthy.
At end, Alex Kanellis will certainly be in the mix again this fall. Kanellis made himself very noticeable on Saturday with his new look Mohawk haircut. He is now up to nearly 280 pounds and will be in the rotation with Mattison and Iwebema. Another player to keep a close eye on is redshirt freshman Justin Collins. Last fall he looked somewhat small for the line, but Collins added lower body weight during the year and now looks the part going into the summer and fall.
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