April 19, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- So now what? The University of Iowa football team completed its 15th and final spring practice Saturday in front of nearly 25,000 fans. Even with the season-opener more than five months away, there is little time to unwind.
"We'll start the speed and conditioning program for the last three weeks of school," UI senior middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian said. "That's real important. You want to feel good, feel healthy and feel strong going into the summer."
The Hawkeye defense returns eight starters from the 2009 team that finished 11-2 and won the FedEx Orange Bowl, 24-14, against Georgia Tech. Tarpinian is moving to middle linebacker, where leading-tackler Pat Angerer was entrenched for the past two seasons. Playing in a back-up role and on special teams, Tarpinian compiled 20 tackles with two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He also delivered one of the highlight hits of the season when he de-cleated Michigan's Darryl Stonum on a kickoff return Oct. 10 inside Kinnick Stadium.
"(Spring) practices went well," Tarpinian said. "We focused on getting better and filling in the spots and we moved forward as a defensive unit and as a linebacker unit. We had a good spring, now we're going to go back, learn from watching the tape, improve and move into our summer program."
A year ago, Iowa led the Big Ten Conference in pass efficiency defense (third nationally) and fewest passing yards allowed (fourth nationally). The Hawkeyes were eighth out of 120 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense (15.38 points per game) and 10th in total defense (276.54 yards per game).
Returning is senior end Adrian Clayborn, who last season tied for eighth in the nation with 1.54 tackles for loss per game (20 total) and tied for ninth with 0.88 sacks per game (11.5 total).
"We had good practices; we improved as a team so that was positive," Clayborn said. "Time will tell how good our defensive line can be. We won't know how good we'll be until the season starts. We should be good."
"I want to be in good condition for the season. That's one of the things I let down on last year -- the first two games coming into the season I was not fully in shape."
UI senior defensive end
While Clayborn answered queries from a swarm of reporters, his sun-drenched fans were growing impatient for an autograph.
"Clayborn, Clayborn, Clayborn," the group hollered. When that didn't work, the chant changed to "Ninety-four, 94, 94."
"Dang, it's hard to concentrate," Clayborn said above the roar of the mob. He then regained his composure and revealed his summer goal.
"I want to be in good condition for the season," Clayborn said. "That's one of the things I let down on last year -- the first two games coming into the season I was not fully in shape."
Senior linebacker Jeremiha Hunter was second on the team in tackles a year ago, averaging more than seven a game. His summer agenda includes gaining a continued understanding of coordinator Norm Parker's defense.
"I want to work on my footwork, my pass drops and being consistent in everything I do," Hunter said. "I am going to work on my endurance, stamina, everything. I'm trying to get better in every aspect: How I eat, how I think, how I interact with the younger guys. I'm trying to be an all-around great person and a great linebacker."
Junior Tyler Nielsen -- another linebacker -- said spring ball went fast, but it accomplished a goal of leading the Hawkeyes toward summer camp.
"This will be a good launch pad for next fall," Nielsen said. "Now we'll go into the summer and get bigger, faster and stronger."
Iowa will play four of its first five games at home beginning Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois on Varsity Club Day.