Defensive tackles Matt Kroul and Mitch King anchored Iowa football with consistency and stellar play.
Kroul started a school-record 50 consecutive games for Iowa. King started 45 games, including the last 30. But with those two players, quantity hardly tells the story. King was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year and was a second-team All-American. Kroul was named second-team all-Big Ten.
The accolades King and Kroul achieved drift off the page in media guides but live in the past for Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Neither King nor Kroul will ever legally tackle another running back or sack another quarterback in an Iowa uniform. Their absence has left a void in their defense, but one Ferentz believes has some prospects.
“To replace that kind of production and quality, it’s not that easy,” Ferentz said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do. And clearly, the guys we’ve got coming back, they’re going to have to elevate their play.”
The spring football depth chart has junior Karl Klug and sophomore Mike Daniels opening as the starting defensive tackles. Both spelled King and Kroul last year and had moments. Klug, a 6-foot-4, 258-pounder from Caledonia, Minn., played in 12 games last year. He earned the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week award after a nine-tackle, two-sack performance in a reserve role against Florida International last September.
Daniels (6-1, 267) played in eight games and had six tackles, including one for loss. Daniels hails from Blackwood, N.J. Listed as backups are Cody Hundertmark (6-4, 280) and Steve Bigach (6-3, 270). Hundertmark, a junior from Humboldt, sat out last season and hopes to earn a red-shirt. He played five games as a true freshman in 2007 and recorded two tackles. Bigach, a red-shirt freshman, entered last season weighing 220 pounds after earning all-state honors from Ohio powerhouse St. Ignatius.
Senior defensive end Chad Geary (6-3, 262 from Tipton) also could see time inside, Ferentz said.
“Chad has done a nice job as a backup end and played well when he’s played,” Ferentz said. “So we’re going to toy around with him playing inside, too, and see what kind of knack he has for that.”
Iowa makes up for its lack of experience at defensive tackle with its end rotation intact from last season. Juniors Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard are back, along with sophomore Broderick Binns, who shined in spot duty. Ballard started every game, while Clayborn missed two starts for injury. Geary filled in for Clayborn.
St. Louis native Clayborn (6-3, 282) had 50 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Ballard (6-5, 285, Lawrence, Kan.) had 40 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. Binns (6-2, 255, St. Paul, Minn.) had two late-season sacks last year.
Ferentz said he has no plans to move any of his ends inside – outside of Geary – despite the depth at defensive end.
“Our intentions are for those guys to play outside,” he said. “They’re probably best suited to play outside, although they might be capable of moving in there. We’re planning on bringing in the other guys, see what they can do, see how things progress and how it goes from there.”
With success and experience comes responsibility. Ferentz expects his veterans to provide leadership to his younger players and maintain a solid work ethic throughout the spring.
“Those guys can’t ever get the feeling that they’re arrived,” Ferentz said. “I’ve eluded to Mitch King and Matt Kroul and the way they practiced last year. That’s indicative of what you’re looking for in a veteran player.”