The Hawkeyes take great pride in player development. The depth chart is filled with 270-pound defensive linemen who came to Iowa City as 220-pound projects.
Sophomore Carl Davis is not one of those guys.
“I came in as a freshman at 340 pounds,” Davis said. “I never knew until I came here that Iowa builds defensive linemen from a smaller group.”
Davis is the outlier. He has had to drop weight to play for the Hawkeyes.
And after a season in which Davis struggled after popping his kneecap out of place twice, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound defensive tackle is ready to play.
“I lived and I learned,” Davis said. “It’s the chance of a lifetime to play college football right now. In football you’re going to get injured sometimes, and I had a rough injury last year.”
Davis had just two tackles in limited action last season. When he was put in the game, he looked uncertain and slow.
“You still have to play with technique even though you’re bigger,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a hard guy to move if he keeps his pads down. Hopefully that will work to our benefit.”
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, the teacher has been in session since the spring when Reece Morgan was named the new defensive line coach, flipping from his previous assignment on the O-line.
“He’s been a positive influence and definitely has gotten the best out of all of us,” senior defensive end Joe Gaglione said. “Which Coach Morgan, he tells you what you did wrong but also what you did right.
“A little bit of a different tone. He’s definitely had a positive influence.”
Davis, one of the bright spots during the second open scrimmage this fall, thinks he has come a long way.
“Coach Morgan coaches a lot of technique now,” Davis said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a big guy, small guy, … hand inside, step properly, things like that.
“I play well for my size, I think. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Iowa hasn’t had a defensive tackle like Davis since Colin Cole was abusing offenses back in 2002. He played in the NFL for nine seasons.
“Colin Cole was the last guy like that,” Davis said. “They worked well with him, I think they can do the same for me.”
Ferentz indicated that Iowa has learned how to develop defensive lineman because the ready-made big guys have been hard to find.
“You know, it’s not necessarily by design,” Ferentz said. “We just don’t have the option necessarily of picking the guys we want all the time.”
With Davis, however, and freshmen Faith Ekakitie (6-3, 275) and Jaleel Johnson (6-4, 300), the Hawkeyes are getting a few defensive linemen who already are developed.
“I think they’re going to be good players in their own right,” Ferentz said. “If it works out that’s right, that’s great.
“If there are a couple Karl Klugs available, we’ll take them.”
The current incarnation of the D-line has an interesting mix. Davis will be at tackle along with sophomore Louis Trinca-Pasat (6-3, 270) and redshirt freshman Darian Cooper (6-2, 280).
Cooper came into Iowa at 280, Trinca-Pasat was at 230.
“I’m way too excited,” Cooper said. “It feels like my freshman year of high school all over again. I’m just really ready to see how far I’ve come.”
The ends will include seniors Steve Bigach (6-3, 282) and Gaglione (6-4, 264), a pair of projects. Bigach broke in last season, and Gaglione is hoping to have a senior year like Thomas Nardo did last year.
“I’m hoping for the best and to show what I can do,” Gaglione said. “You have to stay positive. That’s the big thing. I’ve been through a lot of challenges.”
Also at end is junior Dominic Alvis (6-4, 265) who was thrown to the wolves last fall despite being a light for the position. He is coming back from a knee injury.
The unit has been labeled a big question mark because it is equal parts young and inexperienced.
“It is kind of getting annoying,” Davis aid. “We go through it. Its just part of the territory. We just deal with it. Go to work every day.
“Just show people what we’ve got.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football