What You Need To Know About The Iowa Defense
– By most normal standards, the Iowa defense was solid. However, it finished ninth in the Big Ten in yards allowed. Even so, it allowed more than 24 points just two times – 41 in the overtime win over Iowa State, and 38 in the loss to Wisconsin. That’s it. With six starters returning, there’s a little bit of an overhaul to be done at some key spots, but it’s Iowa – the defense will be fine.
Even so, the linebacking corps has to be replaced. The top three tacklers – Josey Jewell, Bo Bower and Ben Niemann – are done, with a few good fights coming in fall camp for the three gigs. Amani Jones had a fantastic offseason and appears ready to rise up in the middle, but Kristian Welch appears on the verge of doing big things, too. However, it’s asking a lot to find another Jewell right away.
– The line lasts Nathan Bazata on the nose but gets everyone else back. It’s not the biggest group, but it’s tall, active, and relatively deep. There’s enough versatility to play around with the lineup – everyone is around 260 to 285 pounds – with an interesting situation at tackle.
6-8, 285-pound Matt Nelson isn’t exactly an anchor, but he’s a veteran to work around with Sam Brincks and Cedrick Lattimore. These three, along with Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epensesa on the ends, have to do more to get behind the line. The pass rush is okay, but the Hawkeyes finished tenth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss.
– For the second straight year, Iowa is losing a star ball-hawker. Last year, it had to replace Desmond King, and now it has to go on without Josh Jackson, who came up with eight of the team’s 21 picks. 11th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, Iowa made up for the 213 yards allowed per game with big plays,
The new star won’t likely be a corner, but safety Amani Hooker, a great-sized hitter who picked off two passes and took one for a score. Matt Hankins is a veteran at one corner, and 6-2 Michael Ojemudia will get the first look on the other side replacing Jackson.
Biggest Key To The Iowa Defense
The linebacking corps has to really be that good, especially against the run. Iowa has allowed more than one touchdown just four times over the last two seasons, and lost all four games, including last year’s dates against Northwestern and Wisconsin, and is 5-1 in its last six games going back to the Big Ten title loss in 2015 when giving up 200 yards or more.
The three leading linebackers from last year combined for 305 tackles, and now the new group has to be every bit as active and productive. If Amani Jones really is that good, and as long as there’s a good rotation, it should all be okay. Everyone has to be ready – the Big Ten opener is against Wisconsin.