Sept. 28, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It had been two years since Eric Johnson coached on the defensive side of the ball, but when he made the transition to assistant defensive line coach last winter, he found that inexperience was a bit of a theme.
In 2011, the defensive line was loaded with big bodies, big experience and big names. Broderick Binns, Lebron Daniel, Mike Daniels, Joe Forgy and Thomas Nardo filled holes and applied pressure, but they also ate up minutes, and since they've moved on to graduation and, in some cases, NFL camps, the Hawkeyes entered 2012 with some uncertainties up front.
Fast forward to Saturday's Big Ten opener, and Johnson says the line gets a little clearer every day.
"Even from the spring to now, they've taken a ton of steps and grown up immensely," he said. "We didn't have a lot of guys that had played a lot of football going into this season, and they've just done a great job of working hard and studying tape and really paying attention to every detail we're trying to teach. It's baby steps, but they're making improvement every day."
Johnson does have the pleasure of working with a familiar face while adjusting to new player personnel. Former offensive line coach Reese Morgan, whom Johnson worked closely with as the tight ends coach from 2010-11, also jumped the line of scrimmage and is in his first year coaching the defensive line.
"(Reese and I) have a great relationship," said Johnson. "He's a great teacher and I kind of understand the defense, so I help him out with that a little bit. It's a great partnership."
Johnson's new role as an assistant position coach has also afforded him the luxury of putting a greater focus on Iowa's recruiting. He's in his 10th season as recruiting coordinator, and this year has provided a little more flexibility to his practice and recruiting schedule.
"I've been out on the road a little more than I have been in the past. It's been good to let the kids know how interested we are and it helps develop those relationships."
Iowa and Minnesota tee it up Saturday at 11:01 a.m. inside Kinnick Stadium.