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Iowa football: Defensive line adds depth

[ 5 ] September 15, 2010 |

The Iowa defensive line, regarded as one of the best units in the country, now has something extra it didn’t have last season.

Depth.

“I think its good getting guys rotating in there,” senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “It kept us fresh the whole game. I think we all played better.

“Last year at this time we were playing four people and that’s it.”

All four starters — Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard, and Broderick Binns — returned from a unit that was dominant in the Orange Bowl. In the preseason they were ranked the No. 1 defensive line in the country by Rivals.com.

Junior Mike Daniels has made two starts at defensive tackle this season and junior defensive end Lebron Daniel has rotated in.

“I feel we have five starters in the defensive line,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “On the defensive line it certainly does help to have five, six guys that can go and keep everybody fresh and Lebron’s the sixth guy. He has improved a lot.”

Binns was suspended for the opener and Daniels continued to start last week. No matter when he’s on the field, Binns said it only helps for the Hawkeyes to have more depth on the line.

“I think it’s going to help a lot in the fourth quarter for the rest of the season,” Binns said. “It not just the front four guys taking 70 to 80 snaps anymore.”

In order to get Daniels in at defensive tackle, Ballard moved back out to defensive end after spending all of last season playing inside.

“It’s something I’ve got to do,” Ballard said. “We’ve got to get Mike in there. I’ve had that experience of playing tackle and end.”

Ballard, who had 54 tackles and 5½ sacks at defensive tackle last season after starting every game at defensive end as a sophomore, said he is adjusting to his new old role.

“There’s definitely a different speed and different techniques you have to use out there that you have to be aware of,” Ballard said. “Its definitely different from last year where you are playing tackle and you know you’ve got set moves that you are going to do.

“End and tackle, you’ve got a whole wide variety of stuff you have to think about.”

Ballard has played both positions in the first two games as the Hawkeyes have shuttled players in and out on the defensive line.

That means Ballard has to apply pressure up the middle of the offense, and also on the edge. It means trying to split the double team of a guard and center and trying to keep containment of the pocket. It means knowing when to bull rush and when to speed rush.

“It’s something I’ve got to get used to playing against two different guys,” Ballard said. “You use different moves against inside guys and outside guys, so you’ve got to know, get mentally prepared for each snap what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it.”

“He might be the only guy that’s able to do that,” Binns said. “He came in as a freshman at d-end. Then the coaches asked him to move down, and he was very gracious about it. He moved down and did a good job of it.

“It’s hard for him to get into a rhythm. But he’s doing what he needs to do for the team to succeed. That’s good.”

Whatever the defensive line is doing, it seems to be working. Iowa is ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring defense (7.0 points per game) and total defense (216 yards per game). They are ranked eighth and ninth nationally in each category, respectively, as well.

The defensive line has four sacks, plus 7½ of Iowa’s 10 tackles for loss so far this season.

Clayborn, Iowa’s all-America candidate, doesn’t have a sack yet, but he isn’t worried.

“I feel that they will come,” Clayborn said. “Ask the guy from Iowa State how I played. I think he’d say I played pretty good. I’ll get to the quarterback eventually.”

Clayborn didn’t have any sacks after two games last year, either, and he ended up with 11½ and 20 tackles for loss.

“We rush with four people,” Ballard said. “People know that, NFL scouts know that. As long as we get the pressure on the quarterback so our defensive backs can cover, I think he’s a happy guy.

“We all want our sacks to go up, but as long as we’re getting the wins, and we keep putting the pressure on the quarterback, I think we’ll be all right.”

Next up is No. 24 Arizona, which comes in ranked 12th in the country in scoring offense (46.5) and total offense (503.50).

“I know Adrian will pop off three sacks in a game,” Binns said. “But that’s the one thing coaches tell us not to do – don’t expect someone to make the plays. Make the plays yourself. Play team defense.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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