March 30, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A history lesson is waiting if you're wondering how the 2011 University of Iowa football team will replace future NFL defensive linemen Christian Ballard, Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug.
Hawkeye defensive tackle Mike Daniels is glad to convey the lesson.
"People compared Adrian to Kenny Iwebema; Adrian and Christian to Mitch (King) and Matt (Kroul); they compared Mitch and Matt to (Jonanthan) Babineaux and (Matt) Roth. Our defensive line has never had a problem with filling big shoes."
Daniels (40 tackles, 11 for loss, four sacks), a tackle, and Broderick Binns (36 tackles), an end, are returning starters from one of the most heralded defensive lines in Hawkeye history. Iowa held opponents to 122.5 rushing yards and 18.6 points per game last season, while compiling an 8-5 record and winning the Insight Bowl.
Last season Ballard, Clayborn and Klug recorded 152 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Now the torch has been passed to Lebron Daniel, Joe Forgy, Steve Bigach, Thomas Nardo, Carl Davis and Dominic Alvis to name a few.
"Our inexperienced guys have always come in and done a heck of a job," Daniels said. "We step in, especially on the defensive front. That's how we're trained. The bar is set very high from the first time when you visit to the time you leave and it's your job to pass the bar."
At 6-foot-1, 275 pounds, Daniels is an opposing and intimidating force. His prowess in the weight room is becoming legendary.
"To be able to dominate another grown man who is bigger than you is motivation enough in the weight room," Daniels said.
The Hawkeyes returned to practice Wednesday and Daniels said his primary goal is to simply improve.
"You can't stress that enough," Daniels said. "I'll do whatever coach K (defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski) says I need to work on. We're always worried about getting better. It's the Iowa mentality -- we're always trying to get better and that's what I learned from Matt Kroul, Mitch King, Bryan Mattison and Kenny Iwebema. It's our personality around here. We're always working to get better."
If the fifth practice of the spring was anything like the previous four, there was plenty of energy, plenty of pads popping, and plenty of screaming and shouting.
"When you get hungry guys with chips on their shoulders, every practice is like a game," Daniels said. "We always have animosity toward the people on the other side of the ball in practice and in game situations. That's how we get better. All we're focusing on is making this spring something to build on before we head into summer training and camp for the season."