Iowa City, Ia. — Talk about newborn baby fat …
You should have seen Carl Davis when he first plodded into Iowa City this time last fall.
“I was pretty heavy and not very solid,” the Hawkeye defensive tackle said, shaking his head. “Coach (Chris) Doyle had his work cut out for him.”
The Iowa training staff worked its magic, again, and this time sculpted Davis from a flabby 330 pounds to a chiseled 310 as he enters his first season as a big-time, Big Ten Conference player.
His transformed body — and residual overall improvement — is why Davis is among the newcomers expected to play a position head coach Kirk Ferentz said will be manned “by committee.”
“It’s almost like a flip,” Ferentz said. “Last year, we had a lot of experience coming back on the defensive line. This year it’s the other way around.”
Veterans Broderick Binns, Lebron Daniel and Mike Daniels will play three of the positions. The other position is a tossup among Dominic Alvis, Davis, Steve Bigach and Thomas Nardo.
“We’ve got three guys who have started, and then us,” said Alvis, who played sparingly last season.
“Us” includes new-look Davis, who redshirted and learned last season from now-departed Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard.
“Carl is maturing quickly,” Doyle said. “He was an all-around athlete in high school, so he already had a good work ethic when he got here.
“That was significant. He knew his body had to change, and he set his mind on doing it.”
Depending on who does the rankings, Davis is either a 3-star or 4-star recruit who spurned scholarship offers from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State and Wisconsin. His eyes opened when someone showed him that seven former Hawkeye defensive linemen are in the NFL. Clayborn was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April. Ballard was a fourth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
“Those guys who played here in the past played fast, and I’d like to think I can play pretty fast, too,” he said. “I can play faster now that my body has changed.”
Davis is agile, which fits Iowa’s defensive philosophy where inside linemen have been known to occasionally line up on the edge.
“I’m good with that,” Davis said. “I can move around pretty good. I considered myself a pretty good basketball player.”
Even with bigger baggage, Davis said he had no trouble performing all types of dunks.
“I had to prove it to (teammate) Woody Orne, though,” Davis said. “He didn’t believe me, so I had to take him out and show him.”
“I jammed on him pretty good,” Davis said.
Starters: DE Lebron Daniel, DT Dominic Alvis, DT Mike Daniels, DT Broderick Binns.
Reserves: DE Joe Gaglione, DT Steve Bigach, DT Carl Davis, DE Joe Forgy.
Key stat: Iowa ranked second in the Big Ten against the rush last season, allowing an average of just 101.5 yards a game. Only three rushes exceeded 20 yards, and two of those were by quarterbacks.
Analysis: Many people are high on Davis, but he’s just a redshirt freshman. They’re looking at his size (300-pounder), mostly. Alvis, who can play both defensive line positions, gets first crack at replacing Karl Klug.
Starters: Tyler Nielsen, James Morris, Christian Kirksey.
Reserves: Dakota Getz, Bruce Davis, Anthony Hitchens.
Key stat: Morris and Nielsen combined for 112 tackles last season despite Nielsen missing the final five games with a neck injury.
Analysis: Nielsen says linebackers could end up being the strength of the defense. Morris started last season as a true freshman, and will call defensive signals. “This is a young group — with a chance to be productive,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Tyler’s healthy, and James has a chance to be a very good Big Ten player. “
Starters: Shaun Prater, Greg Castillo.
Reserves: Jordan Bernstine, B.J. Lowery.
Key stat: Prater has six interceptions the past two seasons, while Castillo, a reserve in 2011, is looking for his first.
Analysis: The oft-injured Bernstine will be given every opportunity to live up to his high school headlines — providing he stays healthy.
Starters: Collin Sleeper, Micah Hyde.
Reserves: Tom Donatell, Tanner Miller.
Key stat: Hyde had four interceptions last season as a corner, now he’s trying to at least duplicate it at a new position.
Analysis: If things don’t work out in the secondary, do not be surprised if the versatile Hyde returns to his previous position. “We’re pretty sure what Micah can do at both positions,” Ferentz said.
Starter: KR Keenan Davis.
Key stat: Davis is the only experienced returner, with nine kickoff returns last season for an average of 19.4 yards a runback.
Analysis: Who returns punts will be decided between now and Sept. 3. Shaun Prater is a possibility, but he’d be a newbie. Marvin McNutt has offered, and it’s likely, but he’s also valuable someplace else.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football