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Iowa Potluck, Wednesday: Iowa’s real strength

Tenderloins and defense, what Iowa actually does well.

Suck it, Indiana.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

The other day we talked about the maid-rite, and how it’s pretty bad. Now we get to Iowa’s real sandwich, the star of the show, the breaded pork tenderloin. You want the best, we got the best. It’s simple, just a pork tenderloin, pounded flat, breaded, seasoned, and deep fried. Simple, but amazing.

Iowa’s real calling card during the Ferentz era has been a smothering defense. The ubiquitous 4-3 COVER 2 identity under Norm Parker has mostly remained intact with a few tweaks that Phil Parker (no relation) has introduced (namely the Raider package on 3 and long). Last year’s unit started out really strong, but fell precipitously after Drew Ott went out for the season, and RS Freshmen DEs Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson just couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush. Still, though, they’re now year older, and with what should be a skilled secondary (Desmond King, Greg Mabin, Miles Taylor all returning); more than capable LB corps (Josey Jewell, ROSE BOWL gif aside is excellent, and Ben Niemann); and excellent DTs (Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata) the defense should take a step up. What are your thoughts on Iowa’s defense? Capable of living up to some of Iowa’s best defenses (2004, 2009, 2013), or will they fall flat like they did at the end of last season? Will the pass rush be there? Are there any young players on your team that struggled last year, but you have high hopes for this season?

GF: I think it’s fascinating to see the difference that one player makes on a defense. Michigan’s 2015 defense should be example #1, as the interior line was utterly dominant and shutting out opponents...until Ryan Glasgow got hurt, throwing the rotation off and making Michigan allofasudden vulnerable to good offenses like Indiana and Ohio State.

I loved the smashmouth personality of Iowa’s 2015 defensive squad. Turn on the TV and Josey Jewell is going sideline to sideline making plays, same with D King. I don’t see any reason it won’t continue.

Andrew Kraszewski: The only real proviso is that the lack of depth makes Iowa more vulnerable to injury. Losing Ott made a noticeable impact, and that’s only one; if they have truly bad injury luck, things could get ugly. But then, that's the case for pretty much any unit in the country.

I’m intrigued by Andrew Dowell, the new presumptive starter at the S/LB hybrid STAR position. It's probably the most difficult position in the MSU defense, and he's got the chops to be a standout there.

Speth: Don’t care.

It’s going to be interesting to see how TJ Watt (yes JJ’s younger brother) does at outside linebacker. Nobody expects there to not be any drop off when you’re replacing a 1st team All-American, but the rest of the front seven is there so his talent will be on full display opposite of Vince Biegel.

Jesse: I’m torn on Iowa. On one hand, that secondary is pretty special and I think that you could see them continue to be the cornerstone of a B1G West Championship team. On the other hand, Iowa was unable to generate a semblance of a passrush last year and without that, the secondary is screwed. My gut tells me that there are high expectations for the Hawkeyes and I should bet accordingly, which means Iowa is going to lose to Iowa State by allowing something utterly stupid on defense. Wait, what was the question?

Candystripes: I’m not sure you can really predict the coming of a truly great defense; you can only see in retrospect that one arrived. Could Iowa have a great defensive year in 2016? Sure. Will we know before about week 4? Probably not, unless they have a really rough start to the year, in which case we can be quite sure they won’t be.

Since almost all of IU’s defense is still young players, and since almost all of them struggled last year, I have very high hopes that something will finally click on that side of the ball for the Hoosiers.

DJ: I agree with Candy here, I’m not sure with a bunch of cogs that were inconsistent last year or underperforming that you can predict a truely dominant defense. Will the secondary be a strength? Yes. Does that in turn lead to them giving the DL a second longer to generate a solid pass rush? Maybe. It was enough last year but they are going to improve the pass rush if they want to replicate the success of last year’s team.

Young players on Maryland’s defense that may do better this year? I think each year I have hopes that Alvin Hill will step up to the plate in the secondary but it appears he is nothing more than a nickel or dime CB. Darnell Savage was in line to receive major playing time before JC Jackson enrolled this week but given the nickel heavy packages you see on defense that still isn’t out of the question. He struggled as a true freshman but will need to step up to the plate this year. Jesse Aniebonam showed flashes as the primary backup to Yannick Ngakoue, who left for the draft this year, and will be expected to turn those flashes into consistent pass rushing production.

Aaron Yorke: Hmmmmm. I’d say Iowa has a good chance of living up to the hype on defense. Not only does the unit return eight starters, but I don’t see Stanford anywhere on the schedule. That should help the Hawkeyes stay strong down the stretch. Along the way, Iowa faces some teams with serious question marks on offense. Does Northwestern have a quarterback who can throw the ball? How will projected Michigan starter John O’Korn transition to the Big Ten after a sophomore slump in 2014? Will Rutgers gain any yards this season? These are the types of questions facing Iowa opponents as we get set for the 2016 campaign. Looks like the defense has a chance to be quite awesome even if it doesn’t improve on a modest pass rush that sacked the quarterback 30 times last season.

For Penn State, the entire offensive line struggled last year, so I’m hoping that the hog mollies improve in 2016 with the added experience and depth that James Franklin’s recruiting has brought along. On defense, Evan Schwan has a chance to fill a big role with Carl Nassib graduating. Remember, it was Nassib last year who emerged from obscurity to become one of the top pass rushers in the nation. If Schwan can have a fraction of that success, the Penn State defensive line will be in decent shape despite needing to replace three awesome starters.

Creighton: I think the 2016 team has the potential to be the best defense Phil Parker has had at Iowa. They will have a couple of inexperienced guys like Brandon Snyder at safety and Aaron Mends or Jack Hockaday at linebacker, but overall they bring a lot more experience and depth than the last few years. Josey Jewell, Desmond King and Greg Mabin are the big names on D, but I think the unit that will see the most improvement over last year is the defensive line. If d-line coach Reese Morgan is able to find 2-defensive ends to use as solid rotational guys, we could be looking at the best front four since 2009. Yes this is contingent on how much Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse improved with another year in the weight room, but with all the inconsistency they showed last year, there was plenty of promise as well.

Stew: I think the first team defense has a chance to be quite special. There’s talent at every level. Even the ends, who couldn’t manage an effective pass rush last year, showed enough flashes last year to give me confidence they’ll be pretty effective this year. Parker Hesse had this amazing play against UNL:

Thanks Tommy!

And Matt Nelson was a high 3* recruit with offers from some pretty legit programs, and is now very, very large (6’8”, 280lbs). However, the if there are injuries, the depth is pretty poor, and results could drop off dramatically if they start to stack up.

MNW: I'm right there with GF3. My own personal loathing aside, Iowa's defense was a fun one to watch last year. However, I'm with a few of my @esteemed