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Defensive line is Ferentz’s second talking point this spring

[ 0 ] April 24, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — When No. 8 Ohio State defeated visiting Iowa in overtime in 2009, John Lowdermilk stormed the field. He was dressed in his Buckeye best.

“Sadly, yes,” said Lowdermilk, a high school junior at the time.

Now he’s playing for the Hawkeyes. The junior from Kensington, Ohio, is listed as the starting strong safety headed into Saturday’s final spring scrimmage.

And he’ll return to the Horseshoe on Oct. 19, when Iowa visits Ohio State. It will be the seventh game of the season for an Iowa football team trying to return to its winning ways after a 4-8 season in 2012.

Most of the offseason attention has been on the offensive struggles of a year ago. That’s the first thing coach Kirk Ferentz mentions when he reviews the past and looks to the future. But his second talking point is the defensive line.

Names like Clayborn, Ballard, Binns, Klug and Daniels are now playing in the NFL. Guys like tackles Carl Davis, Dominic Alvis, Drew Ott, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Faith Ekakitie are trying to make names for themselves.

“I really like what I’ve seen from the defensive line,” linebacker James Morris said. “They’ve done a great job. They have a will to work. They’re hungry guys. Now, as a defense we need to be more consistent.”

Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey, all seniors to be, give Iowa a lot of experience at linebacker. The defensive line is still a work in progress.

Davis, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound junior-to-be tackle, has gotten a lot of buzz this spring for the way his game has come on.

“Sometimes he can be a really hard guy to block,” said Phil Parker, Iowa’s defensive coordinator. “He’s a 315-pound, very good athlete that can move. I think he enjoys football a little bit. He enjoys coming to practice. That’s helping with his progress. We’re very happy with him.”

Ott had his redshirt taken off midway through the 2012 season as a true freshman. He’s penciled in as a starting end this fall. Parker said that Alvis, also an end, “has done a great job in playing well this whole spring. I’m happy with his progress.”

Trinca-Pasat is sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, which has gotten sophomore Darian Cooper a lot of spring reps at tackle. Possibly the most intriguing player in the mix is Ekakitie, who redshirted last season as a freshman.

“We’re going to play him inside or outside. We have a chance to move him around,” Parker said. “He’s very athletic, and he can run.”

Parker would like to have a rotation of eight to 10 linemen, a response to all the up-tempo offenses the Hawkeyes will be facing.

Parker has also returned to coach the secondary, something his players welcome.

“I think he’s excited to be back,” Lowdermilk said. “I think he really missed us.”

Parker says starting left corner B.J. Lowery “is playing at his highest level right now. I hope he continues to do that.” Senior Tanner Miller returns at free safety, while sophomore Jordan Lomax is listed as the starting right corner.

“Very smart kid, fundamentally sound,” Parker said. “He’s a quiet leader. I’m not stamping him in there as my starter yet, but somebody has to line up in the first group right now.”

Getting more pressure on the quarterback is one area Iowa needs to improve upon. The Hawkeyes were last in the Big Ten with just eight sacks in league play and 13 overall.

Iowa’s defense was also last a year ago in third-down conversions. Big Ten opponents had a 47.5 percent success rate.

“If we’re going to improve on one thing, that’s definitely something to focus on,” Morris said.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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