Iowa Football: Predicting the Defensive Depth Chart for the Season Opener

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJuly 11, 2011

Iowa Football: Predicting the Defensive Depth Chart for the Season Opener

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    We're in the lull between spring football and fall camp, and while there isn't much going on for fans to enjoy, the players are busy working in the weight room and improving from spring practice.

    The Iowa defense lost a lot of talent from last season, and therefore, has some position battles to work out.

    The unit should be inexperienced, but will still have a number of veteran players to guide it.

    Check out the projected depth chart for Iowa's 2011 defense.

DE: Lebron Daniel

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    After seeing time behind Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns, LeBron Daniel is ready to move into a full-time starting job as a senior. While the Iowa defensive line will lack game experience, it certainly won't be young, and Daniel has proven his leadership as a backup over the past few seasons.

    Backup: Joe Forgy

DT: Mike Daniels

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    Daniels came out of nowhere last year to become a starter at defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes a quarter of the way through the season. He has a strong motor and provided a spark for the defensive line on numerous occasions. His production slipped a bit at the end of last season, but he should still be the top player on the Iowa defensive line.

    Backup: Steve Bigach

DT: Thomas Nardo

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    This is the closest call on the defensive line. Nardo, a senior, is likely to get the start early in the season due to experience. However, expect redshirt freshman Carl Davis to receive a lot of playing time as well. He's much bigger than Nardo and was a very highly touted recruit coming out of high school. Regardless of who starts, expect both players to see the field a lot. And while Nardo looks like the most likely candidate for now, that could change midway through the season.

    Backup: Carl Davis

DE: Broderick Binns

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    After a very strong sophomore season, Binns' production dropped off in 2010 and he eventually lost his starting job. He didn't have the motor that he did in 2009 and has since admitted that he wasn't in good enough shape. This year, he has gotten in better shape for the season and must regain his form in order to help lead the defensive line.

    Backup: Dominic Alvis

OLB: Tyler Nielsen

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    After sitting out part of last season due to injury, Nielsen is back for 2011 and is suddenly the leader for a young Iowa linebacker corps.

    After sitting behind some of Iowa's top linebackers, this is his chance to prove himself. He certainly has the talent and experience, but now needs to prove himself as a leader.

    Backup: Christian Kirksey

MLB: James Morris

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    After being thrust into the starting role as a true freshman last season, Morris distinguished himself as a rising star in the Big Ten.

    He was a good leader on the field, even for his young age, and like Pat Angerer before him, he seemed to be involved in every play.

    Morris is an All-Big Ten caliber player who should continue to improve and have an impressive career in Iowa City.

    Backup: Bruce Davis

WLB: Shane DiBona

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    Like Morris, DiBona was thrust into the starting role at times last season and performed very well as a redshirt freshman.

    He played in Morris's shadow and didn't receive nearly as much press, but was very impressive for how little experience he had. He still has a ways to go, but should be a strong player for Iowa's always solid linebacker corps over the next three seasons.

    Backup: Anthony Hitchens

CB: Shaun Prater

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    After testing the NFL waters last season, Prater decided to stay at Iowa for his senior season.

    The All-Big Ten corner will be the leader of Iowa's young secondary and should be on track for another All-Big Ten season.

    Prater provides some stability for the secondary and should shut down one side of the field for opposing offenses.

    Backup: BJ Lowery

CB: Greg Castillo

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    After receiving playing time over the last two seasons, Castillo has a chance to jump into the starting role at corner for the Hawkeyes.

    The junior has had some shining moments at Iowa, but has never been consistent enough to be a starter. He still has a lot of improvement to make, but if Micah Hyde switches to safety, this could be a possibility.

    Backup: Nick Nielsen

FS: Micah Hyde

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    There is still a chance Hyde could play corner, where he excelled last year for the Hawkeyes and could be an All-Big Ten talent.

    However, the Iowa coaches switched Hyde to safety in the spring, saying it was only temporary. But for these coaches to publicly talk about a move like that, it has to be somewhat serious.

    The Hawkeyes must replace two starters at safety, and sending Hyde back to the position would add experience and stability.

    There's a chance Hyde could still be a corner in the fall, but I'm betting on safety.

    Backup: Tanner Miller

SS: Collin Sleeper

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    After learning behind Tyler Sash, it's now Sleeper's turn to take over at strong safety.

    The junior has played very sparingly over his career, but should have a clear path to the starting job, although he may have to battle senior Tom Donatell. While he isn't very well known, he has the experience to do a solid job in taking over for Sash.

    Backup: Tom Donatell