There was plenty of blame to go around after the Hawkeyes finished 2012 with a 4-8 record, but Ekakitie and his fellow defensive linemen are taking it personally.
Although much of Thursday’s media gathering focused on a quarterback battle, none of that may matter if Iowa remains faulty in the trenches.
“In ancient times, when they went to war, the front line was the first people to take the blow,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “If we can take on that double-team, our linebackers are going to be free.
“And if we can force people to double-team us, that’s better for the whole defense.”
The foundation of Iowa’s defense will be an eight-man rotation along the line of scrimmage, which coach Kirk Ferentz hopes to solidify in time for the Aug. 31 opener against Northern Illinois.
“The good news is, I think we have some candidates,” Ferentz said. “With all the up-tempo (offenses), it probably doesn’t hurt to have that.
“We’ll probably play a little bit more effectively if we can keep them fresh.”
Dominic Alvis, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound end, is the only senior defensive lineman listed on the two-deep depth chart. He and tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat are returning starters.
“Certainly, we’re more experienced than we were a year ago,” Ferentz said. “Now, we need to show that on the field, on a consistent basis.”
Iowa’s lack of experience was reflected in a series of unsightly numbers:
— The Hawkeyes recorded just 13 sacks in 12 games — the fewest in the Big Ten Conference — ranking them 113th out of 120 major college teams.
“Hopefully, we can do a lot better than that this year,” defensive end Drew Ott said. “We’ve got to work our hands inside and be determined to get to the quarterback.
“You’ve got to be hungry for the sack.”
— Opposing ball carriers averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Iowa for a total of 1,945 yards.
“We’ve got great linebackers behind us,” Davis said. “Our job as defensive linemen is to make sure we keep the offensive linemen off them.
“Because (the linebackers) will fill those gaps and they will make big plays.”
— Even the Hawkeyes’ average of 22.9 points allowed per game is an emphasis.
“To me, the most important (statistic) is how many points you’re giving up,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “Your goal, sometimes, is set at 16 or 17. If you do that, you’re at least top 10 in the country.”
That would be a lofty achievement, especially for a defense that was seventh in the Big Ten when it came to scoring.
“When you’re prepared mentally and physically, with your technique and knowing the playbook, that’s where your confidence comes from,” Alvis said. “When you can step on the field, knowing how to take control of the game.”
Some players have more immediate objectives.
“We’re always talking about who is going to get the first sack and stuff,” Ott said. “I think it’s a pretty big competition between us.”
For the Hawkeyes, that sort of competition could lift the entire team.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football