One thing sticks out at me as I look at the Iowa football program: fundamentals. This may be the most fundamentally sound football team we face this year. It all starts on the defensive side of the ball for the Hawkeyes. This team has ridden its defense to the Orange Bowl. Led by venerable coordinator Norm Parker, the Hawkeye defense is a direct reflection of his personality: stingy, tough, no nonsense - old school if you will. I'm not going to get into the game breakdown yet - that comes later. Today I just want to familiarize Jacket fans with who they'll see on January 5th & where they'll line up.
Statistically the Hawkeyes are very good, ranking 10th in the FBS in scoring defense at 15.5 points allowed per game. Their strength is in defending the pass as nationally they rank 9th in pass defense, allowing only 165 yards per game. They ranked 31st against the run at a meager 122 yards per game. Overall the Iowa defense ranks 11th nationally with 287 yards per game allowed. On the year they have forced 14 fumbles and rank 5th in the country in interceptions with 20 - both outstanding numbers.
Schematically the Hawks play a 4-3 defense in a "bend but don't break" style. They are extremely disciplined and rarely out of position. This will prove very helpful to them in facing our spread option. One thing I also noticed in the three games I was able to watch is that they tackle very, very well. Again, fundamentally strong. They don't blitz frequently, relying on their front 5 or 6 to get pressure & force mistakes with 5 guys in coverage.
Four Hawkeyes made 1st team All Big 11 this season - DE Adrian Clayborn, LB Pat Angerer, CB Amari Spievey & S Tyler Sash. The characters:
- Defensive Tackles: #46 Christian Ballard (6'5", 285, Jr.) & #95 Karl Klug, (6'4", 260, Jr.) Ballard & Klug are a bit undersized & rely on quickness as opposed to brute strength. Both hold the point of attack & keep opposing linemen off their linebackers, allowing them to make plays.
- Defensive End: two very fine players in #94 Adrian Clayborn (6'3", 282, Jr.) & #91 Broderick Binns (6'2", 255, So.) are a real strength of this defense. Clayborn may be Iowa's best overall player. Strong against both run & pass, he is a physical presence that can handle double teams. Binns is smaller & a more of a rush end with an incredibly long wing span.
- Linebackers: #49 A.J. Edds (6'4", 244 Sr.), #42 Jeremiha Hunter (6'2", 235, Jr.), & # 43 Pat Angerer (6'1" 235, Sr.). These guys make the plays, particularly Angerer, who always seems to be around the ball. They are very physical & shed blocks well.
- Corners: #28 Shaun Prater (5'11" 175, So.) & #19 Amari Spievey (6'0" 190, Jr.). Spievey is a legit NFL prospect & collegiate shut down corner. What impresses me is his physical play in run support. It's hard to tell what kind of player Prater is because he always had safety help over the top as they were willing to put Spievey out on an island. Iowa has not matched up its corners this season - Spievey plays wide & Prater plays the boundary. It will be interesting to see if they do so Spievey can cover BeBe. If they don't, BeBe on Prater is a mismatch.
- Safeties: #9 Tyler Sash (6'1" 210, So.) & #30 Brett Greenwood (6'0" 200, Jr.). You'll see a LOT of Tyler Sash in the Orange Bowl. In my opinion Iowa's best player. Very dynamic. Not a huge hitter but a great tackler. Parker won't hesitate to move him all over the field. I expect Sash to be flying to the pitchman on the triple option. His ability to contain Nesbitt will be key to this game. Greenwood is a good complementary player who rarely makes mistakes, i.e. an Iowa defender.
What stuck out at me when watching Iowa play is how similar they are to UNC. The defenses are almost a clone of each other. Both have all conference players at the same positions: defensive end (Clayborn & UNC's Robert Quinn), a play-making linebacker (Angerer/Quan Sturdivant), a great safety (sash/Deunta Williams), & a shut down corner (Spievey/Kendic Burney). If anything UNC has more talent at defensive tackle (Thomas/Austin) that Iowa. But for a frame of reference, think UNC's defense & you'll have an idea of what we're up against.....