New Year, New Defensive Chemistry
April 13, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Norm Parker feels great and he's getting stronger. The same could be said about the University of Iowa defense during spring practices, a group that Parker will coordinate for a 12th season.
"Every year a team has a new chemistry," Parker said Tuesday at a press conference for the UI football coordinators. "That's one thing about college football is that the guys come and the guys go and every year has a new personality to it. It's what kind of leadership you get out of the seniors to establish what kind of team you have."
The depth chart released Tuesday includes five senior starters on defense : Adrian Clayborn at end, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard at tackle, Jeff Tarpinian at middle linebacker and Jeremiha Hunter at `Will' linebacker.
The entire front four returns for the Hawkeyes and it is being viewed as one of the obvious team strengths. Parker is a bit more cautious; after all, it is only April.
"They're very average," Parker said of the defensive front. "They've all played before, they should be better than last year and if they do what they should do and we do what we should do as coaches, they should be a good group. You can't sit around and worry about press clippings and that sort of stuff because that's not going to help you once the game starts. You better work during the summer and you better work at it."
Clayborn is the "leader of the group" according to Parker. Last season the first-team all-Big Ten Conference performer made 70 tackles (20 for loss) with a team-high 11 ½ quarterback sacks.
"Adrian Clayborn is a good, hard-working guy," Parker said. "He pushes himself and he pushes the other guys. Adrian Clayborn is a good leader and that's what he has to be next year. He has to be the pusher of the defense...those older guys have to play their best. He's a year bigger, he's a year stronger, he's a year more mature. He should be a better player that he was last year."
Iowa lost three starters from a defense that ranked 10th in the nation in fewest yards allowed per game (276.54). Gone are linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds and cornerback Amari Spievey. A candidate to replace Angerer in the middle is Tarpinian, a native of Omaha, Neb.
"I see Tarp in the middle of the whole thing," Parker said. "I see Tarp as a major factor in the whole picture. He's played very well the last 10 days."
The middle linebacker has to conduct the band, Parker said, not just play in the band.
"Since that guy's like the quarterback out there, that's very important because he does a lot of checking and leading the band a little bit," Parker said. "Tarp's a very, very intelligent guy. When he grows up, he won't be a coach. He's a very smart guy."
Last season the Hawkeyes won their first nine game before finishing 11-2 overall. Included in that victory total was a 24-14 decision over Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl; a game in which Parker's defense held the Yellow Jackets to 12 passing yards and 155 total yards.
"That game's over. That's dead and gone," Parker said. "We started out spring ball by showing (our defense) all the bad plays in the Orange Bowl. I think the kids played well, I think they played hard, I think they prepared hard, but that was then and this is now. We have to correct the mistakes we made in that game."
Clayborn was named most valuable player in the FedEx Orange Bowl and Klug had to be in the running for the award as well with six stops.
"I thought Klug was a good player last year," Parker said. "I think he's a very good player and I think he doesn't get the notoriety that some of the others do, but he's as good a player as we have on our defense."
"When we think about Klug, we think of Matt Roth, we think of King and Kroul," Parker said. "Our impression and our appreciation for Klug is like Roth, King and Kroul. We have a great deal of respect for him and his work ethic and his toughness and everything he represents. You'd like to have a whole bunch of Klug's around."
For the second consecutive spring, the Hawkeye defense is practicing without starting strong safety Tyler Sash and starting free safety Brett Greenwood. They will be ready will fall camp opens after undergoing shoulder procedures in the offseason.
At cornerback, Parker said Micah Hyde "has done a good job" and Shaun Prater is "a little bit better and a little bit more confident" than a year ago when he made 41 tackles and intercepted two passes. Jordan Bernstine, who is returning from an ankle injury is having "some good days, some bad days" according to Parker.
Three defensive linemen have emerged as impressive backups during the spring: Mike Daniels (tackle), Lebron Daniel (end) and Dominic Alvis (end). Parker said that Hunter is having a good spring at linebacker.
"He's been more consistent and he's probably had his best times since he's been here," Parker said.
Parker, who began coaching in 1965, is beginning his 45th season in 2010.
"I'll probably croak out on the field some day," he joked. "Hope we're ahead when I do it."
The nationally ranked University of Iowa football team will make its debut appearance for 2010 Saturday, April 17, at the annual Coca-Cola Classic Spring Practice, beginning at 1:05 p.m. The west grandstand and south grandstand will be open for spectators. Gates A, B, and E will open at 11:30 a.m. There is no admission charge, but fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for donation to the Johnson County Crisis Center.