King’s relentless personality will make an NFL team very happy

April 23, 2009

All right, I’m going to step out of my journalism shell for a second. I’ve caught some junk from friends of mine from my hometown of Burlington about not mentioning Mitch King’s hometown, which happens to be … Burlington.

OK, here it goes for just a paragraph. I played for Burlington’s only team to win a playoff game back in the early 1990s (Oct. 29, 1991). I coached there for a season. Burlington is as much a part of me as my family and the state of Iowa. I’m happy that a former Grayhound like Mitch King is going to the NFL. Anyone who shed his blood at Bracewell Stadium for the purple and gray can feel proud this weekend for King. That includes myself.

Now, back to journalism and a story on King that will appear in Saturday’s Gazette.

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Some consider Mitch King too small for defensive tackle, too short for defensive end and too big for linebacker. But he seems just right for the NFL.

King, a former Iowa defensive tackle from Burlington, has the drive and tenacity that draft analysts love. He’s a vocal leader in the huddle and his passion for football shows up on every down.

“He’s loved by every defensive line coach out there because of his relentless play,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC. “(King is) a high-motor, great-effort guy that had good Senior Bowl week. He’s very physical when he hits people. I think there’s a section in the Senior Bowl game where he made three or four tackles in a row, where he just dominated in there.”

King, 22, didn’t start in the Senior Bowl, but he registered four tackles, including three tackles in a four-play series. He also recorded a quarterback hurry.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls King “a hustler.”

“Every team is not going to look at Mitch King and say he’s going to be way up there,” Kiper said. “But he’s a guy who’s very, very productive, good technique, never quits on a play. (King is) a rotation guy and as a guy who can give you some versatility inside and a kid who spills his guts every play.”

King earned the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year award from league coaches. He had 15.5 tackles for loss last year, including four sacks. He had 54 tackles, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-American by ESPN. He also was Iowa’s co-MVP and named a permanent team captain.

King’s tweener size seems to stump his high-round potential. He stands 6 feet, 1 and weighs 280 pounds. Most teams prefer defensive tackles in the 300-pound range and slightly taller. King’s frame also keeps him from shifting fully to defensive end, where the preference is a little leaner and a little taller.

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“He’s going to have to go in the right scheme,” Shonka said. “I think he’s going to probably be used as an undertackle in a four-man line. He’s going to be a one-gap penetrator where he can shoot up the field and only worry about one gap. He obviously won’t be a two-gap guy because he’s not big enough, but he’s got the explosive first-step quickness.”

Shonka said King reminds him of St. Louis Rams defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, who has earned six Pro Bowl bids. King and Glover are comparable in size.

“He might not be quite as fluid as La’Roi, but his relentless is very similar,” Shonka said.

King’s ability have others considering him for different positions. He came to Iowa as an all-state linebacker and played running back at Burlington. Shonka said King could move to linebacker or fullback as well.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if some ballclub tried to make a linebacker out of him, either inside or outside,” Shonka said. “We just kind of see him as that undertackle right now. He’ll play special teams. He can run well enough when he can go down and cover kicks.

“I wouldn’t worry about being 280 pounds and playing fullback, because there’s lots of teams sticking guys there as a lead blocker on the goal line, and he could do that, too. I’m sure with his explosiveness, his savvy for contact, he’d fit right in.”

King caught some passes during Iowa’s pro day in March, which induced a chuckle from Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz said King compares to former Hawkeye Jonathan Babineaux, who weighs 284 pounds but started all 16 games last year for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think Mitch is a similar-type player,” Ferentz said. “He’s never going to be a 320-pound guy, but he’s an awfully good football player. People have acknowledged that, and for certain teams, that’s going to be really attractive. It’s just a matter of him finding the right niche.”


Combine snub motivates Kroul toward NFL

April 21, 2009
Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — It’s hard to overlook Matt Kroul’s impact to the Iowa football program.

The Mount Vernon native started a school-record 50 straight games. That’s every game for Iowa’s last four seasons, including three bowls. He has an award roll in Iowa’s spring prospectus that includes the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award, permanent team captain status and second-team all-Big Ten honors by the league’s media outlets.

However, lost in his long list of accolades, was his name from the NFL Combine in February.

“After some of the stuff I had done, it was disappointing,” Kroul said. “But at the same time, it opened my eyes to keep working, and keep on … I figure, hopefully, for the next few years of my life to just keep competing every day, I took it heart, too, I guess.”

Kroul thought about the slight when he met with Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Getting left out stung Kroul.

“I used it as motivation and make the most of things on my pro day,” Kroul said. “Hopefully I put good enough numbers up there that there’s more interest.

“Yeah, it hurt a little bit, but at the same time, you just kind of roll with things and go on.”

Kroul, 23, finished his Iowa career with 238 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He’s forever linked with fellow defensive tackle Mitch King, with whom he paired in the starting lineup for 45 games. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz often references “King and Kroul” when talking about leadership and work ethic, whether it’s in a spring practice or a game.

“From my vantage point, he’s a guy that’s going to make someone’s team better and help them win football games,” Ferentz said.

“I’ve had several people say they were really impressed with him,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be him finding the right spot, right place, right time.”

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC., graded Kroul as a seventh-round pick despite Kroul not receiving a combine invitation. Shonka said Kroul has several intangibles teams are looking for, including his physical skills.

“He’s an excellent technique player,” Shonka said. “He can run those guards back; he can drive them back,. He uses his hands really well, he keeps a low pad level, he’s instinctive. …”

“If you study Iowa’s tapes, he’s one of those guys that’s always in the picture frame, He’s always around the ball. I think that he does so many good things.”

Kroul has improved his stature with a strong showing at Iowa’s pro day in March. He’s up to 291 pounds and stands nearly 6 feet, 1.5 inches. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.

“If Matt Kroul gets signed as a free agent, he’s going to be a steal for somebody,” Shonka said. “Because, again, there’s not a lot of true 4-3 tackles out there because there’s so many of the nose tackle types. Matt would fit right in that 4-3 scheme.”

The Sporting News listed Kroul as a priority free agent for teams. The magazine touted Kroul as a punishing tackler who “wants to be in on every play … a hard-nosed player who shows intelligence and toughness.” The magazine’s assessment of Kroul is “he’s limited at the next level, (but) he’ll make it tough for a team to cut him.”

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Kroul has heard from several teams interested in either drafting him or signing him to a free-agent contract after the draft. Kroul is confident he’ll get a chance to play in the NFL either way.

“I don’t want to be arrogant or anything, but I’ve done enough the last four years that I should be able to compete with these guys,” Kroul said. “It’s definitely going to be enjoyable. I’ll be looking forward to doing that.”

This weekend, Kroul plans to enjoy the time with his family when he shifts from college to pro player. His thoughts range from “stressful” to “exciting” to “satisfying” when thinking about his journey from Mount Vernon all-stater to Iowa four-year starter to the NFL. He also said the gathering won’t be “too flamboyant.”

“All it takes is one team,” he said.


Mel Kiper Jr. on Iowa’s Greene, King

April 16, 2009
Iowa's Mitch King shouts as he addresses the crowd during the Hawkeye Huddle at the Tampa Convention Center on Dec. 30, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. At right is Gary Dolphin. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa's Mitch King shouts as he addresses the crowd during the Hawkeye Huddle at the Tampa Convention Center on Dec. 30, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. At right is Gary Dolphin. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. complimented former Iowa players Shonn Greene and Mitch King during a conference call with reporters this morning.

Kiper said Greene, a running back, likely will be selected in rounds two through four. Kiper said Greene definitely would be a second-round pick but questioned Greene’s pass-catching skills.

“He could go late seconds to early fourth,” Kiper said. “If he was a more complete player, I think he’d be a guaranteed two.”

King has been projected to compete anywhere from defensive line to linebacker to even fullback. Kiper called King “a hustler.”

“I think he could play end or tackle depending upon the scheme,” Kiper said. “He’d be a fit for one of the two. Every team is not going to look at Mitch King and say he’s way up there but he’s a guy who’s very, very productive, good technique, never quits on a play. As a rotation guy and as a guy who can give you some versatility inside and as a kid who spills his guts every play … I would say Mitch King has got a chance to be a fourth-round pick.”

Greene rushed for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns last year for Iowa. Both are school records. Greene was a consensus All-American and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene answers questions at a news conference before the official presentation of the Doak Walker Award on Feb. 6, 2009, in Dallas.  (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

Iowa running back Shonn Greene answers questions at a news conference before the official presentation of the Doak Walker Award on Feb. 6, 2009, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

“Running backs always drop a little bit,” Kiper said. “(Dallas’) Deshard Choice went in the fourth round. (Houston’s) Steve Slaton went in the third round. Both had outstanding years.”

King was a second-team All-American and was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the Year.


Ferentz on Jewel Hampton’s injury status, position switches and d-tackle

April 14, 2009
Iowa running back Jewel Hampton escapes Minnesota's Kyle Theret to dive into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Nov. 22 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa running back Jewel Hampton escapes Minnesota's Kyle Theret to dive into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Nov. 22 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First-team running back Jewel Hampton has suffered a couple of minor injuries this spring, but nothing to hinder the incoming sophomore starter.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Hampton “suffered an injury Saturday” but should return to practice by late this week.

“He went into spring with a little bit of a hamstring pull, and it was just a strain, which was good,” Ferentz said today in a teleconference with Big Ten football coaches. “So he missed his work a the front end.

“He had a near-miss on Saturday but he’s going to be fine. I’m not sure if he’ll practice on Wednesday; that’s kind of iffy but we expect back end of the week so he’s doing a good job.”

Hampton played in all 13 games and rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Hampton (5-foot-9, 210 pounds) competes with junior Paki O’Meara and red-shirt freshman Jeff Brinson to replace All-American Shonn Greene.

Ferentz did say it was almost impossible to replace Greene, who rushed for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns last year. Greene was a consensus All-American and was named the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s best college running back. He likely will be selected in the second or third round in next week’s NFL draft.

“We don’t expect to replace Shonn,” Ferentz said. “It would kind of like replacing a guy like (Indianapolis Colts safety) Bob Sanders or (Indianapolis Colts tight end) Dallas Clark or for that matter, (Mitch) King and (Matt) Kroul. Guys that have had tremendous careers here and great production, and Shonn just had extraordinary production a year ago.

“So we don’t expect any one person to fill that void but we’ve got a capable group back there. At the end of the day, by the end of the season we should be able to have guys play well at that position. And I think you’ll probably see several guys contribute as opposed to Shonn being the featured a guy a year ago.”

—–

Here’s a complete transcription of Ferentz’s teleconference with reporters earlier today:

ON RUNNING BACKS
The way we finished the season, we finished with Jewel Hampton as our second-team guy. He moves up a line. We’ve got Paki O’Meara, who has done a good job the past year to continue to improve, and he’d be our second-team guy and Jeff Brinson, a young man we red-shirted a year ago, he’d be our No. 3 man. So those are the three guys that have gotten the most extensive work this spring.

ON REPLACING SHONN GREENE
We don’t expect to replace Shonn. It would kind of like replacing a guy like Bob Sanders or Dallas Clark or for that matter, (Mitch) King and (Matt) Kroul. Guys that have had tremendous careers here and great production, and Shonn just had extraordinary production a year ago. So we don’t expect any one person to fill that void but we’ve got a capable group back there. At the end of the day, by the end of the season we should be able to have guys play well at that position. And I think you’ll probably see several guys contribute as opposed to Shonn being the featured a guy a year ago.

ON OPENING THE BIG TEN SCHEDULE AT PENN STATE
I’ll make this prediction: Playing Penn State next year or 10 years from now will be tough. Playing there is tough and that’s pretty predictable. It’s not 100 percent but it’s probably over 90 that we open on the road. That’s our trademark. However the computer shakes out, we always seem to open up on the road, a high percentage of road games. The good news is after that game we’ll have four on the road and three at home.
It will be a tough challenge. Hopefully we’ll be playing good football.

ON JEWEL HAMPTON’S HEALTH
Jewel, he is … he suffered an injury Saturday. Actually he went into spring with a little bit of a hamstring pull ,and it was just a strain, which was good so he missed his work at the front end. He had a near-miss on Saturday, but he’s going to be fine. I’m not sure if he’ll practice on Wednesday; that’s kind of iffy but we expect back end of the week so he’s doing a good job.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE UPDATE
As far as the defensive tackle position, it’s really a scenario like I described with the running back position. I think we’re seeing some good things out of the guys who are practicing right now, most notably Karl Klug, Mike Daniels and Steve Bigach and then also when Cody Hundertmark gets back, he’s one of six guys sitting out coming off of surgery, we expect him to go, too. So probably the combination of those four players right there all of those guys will probably be rotating in and out. Just like Shonn went the distance for us at running back, King and Kroul have done the same thing for us. I think probably next year what we’re looking at is playing all four of those guys, I’m not sure in what roles, all those guys being involved. And Travis Meade, we haven’t made many position changes, but Travis jumped over there and did some good things this spring, too. So I think it’s going to be defensive tackle-by-committee if you will, but I think we will be fine.

WHO IS CATCHING KIRK’S EYE?
I told you it’s always fun to see who’s improving, and two guys I mentioned right off the top, and I don’t think either of them are going to make headlines, I don’t see either of them starting next year, but Broderick Binns was a guy who was really improving during the course of the last season and really seemed to kind of caught my eye from our bye week on last year in October. He’s a backup defensive end, but he’s a young player who’s really making strides. If I was going to single out a guy on the offensive side I’d say Adam Gettis, who’s a young offensive lineman. I think he was 220 pounds or 225 pounds coming out of high school, and he’s had a great spring. I don’t foresee him starting next year but I think his future looks really bright. If I was to pick two guys who have emerged, it would be those. Again, I don’t think either will catch headlines because they’re both linemen, they aren’t really projected to start, but they’ve done a nice job. I think we’re seeing some progress as we look around. It just hasn’t been maybe as consistent as you hope.

ON QB RICK STANZI’S IMPROVEMENT, TEAM LEADERS AND DACE RICHARDSON
I think he’s just like you hope every player coming out his third year. You hope to see a little bit more maturity and you hope to see a little bit better work habits and those types of things. Not that he was ever lacking, and part of being a college football player is just being and accepting responsibility, and we’re seeing that. I think if we’re really, if I was to pick two guys out, that have grown as leaders, I think Rick would be one of I would identify and I think Pat Angerer the same way. And I describe that a year ago, they both were just trying to get to the field and they both got to the field in the fall and they both played pretty well and had some success and with that. Now they’re able to put their hands around and add responsibility of being leaders and that’s really pleasing, too. Talking about guys who have grown or improved, the other guy I’d throw in there is Dace Richardson. Knock on wood, we’ll reserve judgment on that, but he’s out practicing now. I think he missed the first two workouts, he’s got class conflict on Wednesdays so we’ve missed a couple there, but he’s been able to practice this spring and he looks like a very rusty football player, but he’s really happy and I think he’s just very excited to be back on the field. We’re excited about that, too.

RESTORING THE OFFENSIVE LINE’S TRADITION?
I don’t have any problem with the group that we had in 2007 other than they were young. We were like that back in … I’m like pulling out ancient history, you probably weren’t even born then, but we went through the same thing in 84. We enjoyed 83, we had a veteran group and we had a dumb-crap line coach back then we had seven seniors on our two-deep so 83 was a lot of fun. 84 was a lot of growing paints. I think that was kind of similar to what we went through in 2007. This group has worked hard; we have no idea what our starting lineup is going to be right now. But we’ve got a group that’s going to be representative and we’re just a little bit more mature and little further along physically and mentally than we were in 2007. That was nobody’s fault; it’s just that we were young, that’s all. And we paid for it a little bit, but we’re a little bit more veteran now and that’s a good thing.

ON BRYAN BULAGA
He’s a good guy to coach. He’s pretty good physically and he’s got a great attitude so we’re just thrilled he’s on our football team. A guy who works hard, like he does and has an attitude like he does, it’s a contagious thing. He takes care of his business, but he also makes other guys better and that’s … there’s nothing wrong with good players and that’s what good players do. They not only play well, but they make other guys better and Bryan certainly fits that bill.


King and Kroul’s legacy: Work ethic

April 1, 2009

 

Iowa's Mitch King (left) and Matt Kroul (right)sign autographs for Parks McBride, 8, of Cedar Rapids during the Iowa football team's Fan Fest Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008 in the practice bubble at the Hayden Fry Football Complex in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Mitch King (left) and Matt Kroul (right)sign autographs for Parks McBride, 8, of Cedar Rapids during the Iowa football team's Fan Fest Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008 in the practice bubble at the Hayden Fry Football Complex in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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.”


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