When Carl Davis is on the field, he’s hard to miss.
At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, the sophomore from Detroit, is the biggest player on the Hawkeyes’ defense.
During Iowa’s second open practice of the preseason Saturday, the big defensive tackle stood out for reasons besides his size.
“He’s a young guy that missed spring ball,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “The more time he gets in two-a-days, the better he becomes.”
Davis had a sack and knocked down several passes for a defensive line that is out to prove it won’t be a weak link in 2012.
“Our defensive line has really stepped up,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “They are a very young group, but they’ve shown us that they can do it, and they can play well.”
Iowa graduated three senior starters in each of the past two years from the defensive line. The Hawkeyes graduated 15.5 quarterback sacks and returns just 2.5 sacks (1.5 for Dominic Alvis and 1 for Steve Bigach).
Brian Bennett of ESPN.com ranked Iowa’s D-line ninth, calling it “a frighteningly young and inexperienced group.” Tom Dienhart of BigTenNetwork.com also ranked Iowa ninth: “Lots of issues for a unit that struggled last season.”
“We have a lot of young guys,” Parker admitted. “Many don’t have a lot of experience but have a lot of room to improve.”
Plenty of players rotated in with the first-team defensive line Saturday. Bigach, Alvis and Davis played a lot of snaps, as did senior Joe Gaglione, sophomore Louis Trinca-Pasat, and redshirt freshman Darian Cooper.
Gaglione was carted off with an undisclosed injury, but the 6-4, 264-pound defensive end has come a long way from last season when he had just seven tackles in limited action.
“Joe has improved greatly,” Alvis said. “He’s a big, strong, powerful dude. Just watching him in practice, nobody can really block him. He’s really looking good.”
Alvis also was impressed with 6-3, 270-pound sophomore Trinca-Pasat.
“He’s come a hell of a long way,” Alvis said.
Sophomore Mike Hardy and redshirt freshman Melvin Spears also took snaps with the first team Saturday.
It was a productive day for the D-line as it got into the backfield several times, recording sacks, knockdowns and hurries.
“It’s good when anyone gets a sack,” Alvis said. “It always brings the defense alive just a little bit more. It’s great to have that energy out there.”
Cooper came up with an interception on a screen pass part of a ball-hawking defense that came up with several turnovers.
“It seemed a lot of it was the defensive line,” Parker said. “We need to get some turnovers and get the ball back to our offense. I think they’ve done that today.”
Alvis said the starting four on the D-line has yet to be determined but expects them to use a rotation during the season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are capable,” Alvis said. “We’re trying to see what the right fit is right now. Fresh horses are always a good thing.”
* MORRIS OUT: Junior linebacker James Morris was dressed and on the field on Saturday but did not participate in drills.
Parker said they were just giving the Solon graduate a little extra rest.
“Rest and get the other guys a little bit of work,” Parker said. “He’ll be fine. He’ll be back on Tuesday.”
Morris was co-leader of the team in tackles last season with 110 stops.
* RECEIVERS MISSING: Both top returning pass-catchers — senior Keenan Davis and sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley — were not at practice Saturday.
Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said both had injuries but neither was serious. He expects them back to practice soon.
Filling in on the first unit Saturday were junior Don Shumpert, true freshman Maurice Fleming and redshirt freshman Jacob Hillyer
* DONATELL LEADS: Senior Tom Donatell, a converted linebacker, is leading the race at strong safety with sophomore Nico Law.
“We’re trying to figure out if it’s Nico Law or Tommy,” Parker said. “But Tommy has had a good two-a-days, so we’re happy with him. Good challenge there.”
* OTHER INJURIES: Right tackle Brett Van Sloten missed practice, as did defensive end Riley McMinn.
Junior cornerback B.J. Lowery returned to the secondary after missing Kids Day at Kinnick.
“He tweeked an ankle, he’s fine,” Parker said. “We’ll watch his reps. It’s nice to have him and (Micah) Hyde out there.”
* PUNT: Freshman Connor Kornbrath seems to have the inside track on punting duties, taking most of the punts during the scrimmage.
He is competing with senior John Wienke and sophomore Jonny Mullings.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football