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Morgan teaching a young defensive line

[ 4 ] April 4, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t need a hard sell to get veteran assistant coach Reese Morgan to switch positions this spring.

“He just asked me if I’d be interested in doing it, and I said, ‘Sure,’ ” Morgan said. “I think he knew the answer before he asked.”

Morgan jumped into coaching the defensive line knowing he was taking over a position with almost no game experience and few upperclassmen he could rely on.

“We’ve got a group of guys that nobody knows about,” Morgan said. “But I’m excited to work with them.”

The spring depth chart has two redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen filling six of the eight spots on the D-line.

Junior Steve Bigach, who had three career tackles going into the 2011 season, suddenly is the unit’s spokesman. Last fall, he started five games and finished with 24 tackles and one sack.

“I know people like to talk about it, that we’re young, and everything like that,” Bigach said. “If we are improvement-driven, we can do some things in the fall that maybe will surprise a couple people.”

The youth on the line this spring is accentuated by the fact that sophomore Dominic Alvis — who started eight games last fall — and redshirt freshman Carl Davis are sitting out recovering from injuries.

“It’s upsetting,” Bigach said of his missing teammates. “The elephant in the room … we’re young. You’d like to have everyone in the spring working to get better.”

Freshmen Dean Tsopanides (6-foot-, 240), Darian Cooper (6-2, 280) and Riley McMinn (6-7, 245) — who all redshirted last fall — are listed as starters with Bigach (6-3, 282).

“We can’t go out and recruit anybody right now,” Morgan said. “We’ve got the guys we have.

“Our job is to do the best we can at getting those guys to improve, develop them.”

That may be one of the reasons Ferentz tabbed Morgan to move away from coaching the offensive line after nine seasons.

“If you look at the depth and the broadness of Reese’s resume, starting with what he did as a high school coach, you talk about teaching in its purest form,” Ferentz said. “If you’re not a good teacher, you’re not going to be a good high school coach.

“Reese demonstrated that (he’s a good teacher). He’s done that with every opportunity he’s had professionally.”

Ferentz thinks Morgan is better suited for the challenge than former defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski, who took the same job with Nebraska in December.

Morgan already has snagged 6-4, 305-pound junior lineman Casey McMillan to switch from O-line to D-line.

Typically, incoming freshman linemen don’t play right away, but Iowa is bringing in Faith Ekakitie (6-3, 275) and Jaleel Johnson (6-4, 300).

“Certainly those two young men would have physical ability to do that, possibly,” Morgan said. “It remains to be seen; it really does.”

Just another question mark for the defensive line.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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