Mike Daniels came barreling through the creaky revolving door at the Iowa indoor practice facility Wednesday with Broderick Binns a couple steps behind.
Daniels and Binns were competing last spring for the fourth starting position on a defensive line billed as one of the nation’s best. Now they’re the axis of a defensive front that doesn’t want to be known as the squeaky hinge on the Iowa defense.
“Nobody knows who we are as a front four,” said Binns, a senior defensive end. “Last year, we had the three seniors who had been around for the past two or three seasons, so everybody knew what they were about. This year, no one knows — which is good. We’ll see what it’s like the first game. I believe for the d-line, the sky’s the limit. I believe we’re going to shock a lot of people.”
The Hawkeyes lost the bulk of their defensive line production when Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug exhausted their eligibility. Those three accounted for 63 percent of the tackles registered by Iowa’s defensive linemen last season, 64 percent of the tackles for losses and 67 percent of the sacks.
But this isn’t a complete overhaul for the Hawkeyes.
“We had three good players,” Daniels said. “But saying we have such big shoes to fill is kind of an insult to the guys who were behind them. (They) should be able to step right in. Those guys had big shoes to fill when (Mitch) King and (Matt) Kroul left. King and Kroul had big shoes to fill when (Jonathan) Babineaux, (Matt) Roth and that group left. Obviously, our defensive line doesn’t have a problem filling in big shoes.”
Daniels notched 11 tackles for loss and four sacks last season — both ranked second to Klug for the team lead — during his breakthrough junior season. Binns is trying to bounce back to his sophomore form when he had 10 tackles for loss, six sacks and batted down nine passes. His production slipped last year when he shared time with Daniels and Binns failed to register a sack.
“Of course, I want to prove something,” Binns said. “(But) it’s too much weight on a person’s back to think they have to go out and make every play, get six sacks a game or whatever. This year, I’m just going to play my role and give 110 percent every play.”
Binns said he’s had talks with Clayborn. He said the All-Big Ten defensive end told him it was time for him and Daniels to claim the leadership role on a defense that must replace six starters.
“One thing he told me was don’t ever go into a game thinking you have to make all of the plays,”
Binns said. “That’s why I have 10 other guys on the field next to me. I really took that to heart because sometimes it’s hard thinking you have to perform way up there when all you’ve got to do your job and everything else will account for itself.”
Iowa rarely dipped into the defensive line depth chart last season beyond the top five. Defensive end Lebron Daniel had six tackles and a sack, and defensive tackle Thomas Nardo collected three tackles in five games. The seniors are listed as starters on the depth chart.
“I think they bring a lot to it,” Binns said. “They’re fifth-year seniors, they know what’s going on in the program, they obviously know what’s going on from a d-line point of view. I think we’re going to be good. We should be all right.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last week he envisions the Hawkeyes using six to eight defensive linemen on a regular basis this fall. Five seniors are in the two-deep, along with sophomore Dominic Alvis, junior Steve Bigach and 310-pound freshman Carl Davis.
“It’s the same thing,” Daniels said. “The bar’s set high and it’s our job to get above that.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football