IowaLaw's Mid-Term Report Card: Defense

IowasLaw

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As bad as Iowa's offense has been, the defense has been equally good. Or have they? The defense was supposed to be elite this year, so how do they compare with their peers? Would it shock you to learn that going into the Ohio State, where the stats will inevitably get worse, Iowa ranks 5th in the league in total defense? That's closer to a middle of the pack defense than a great one.

LBs (A+) - Going into the season, Iowa had the top LB group in the league. While it was a major blow to have Jacobs go down early, the LBs have still be the top performing group on the defense. Jack Campbell, Iowa's all-American, leads the league in tackles and it's not even close. Seth Benson is 4th (although if I have to find a spot to pick on with LBs, it's been that Benson has virtually no solo tackles on the year and pads his stats by jumping on piles). That's about as solid as it gets. Imagine how good they'd be with Jacobs.

DLine (C) - Believe it or not, although Iowa gets a lot of credit for stopping the run, this year's rushing defense ranks just 8th in the Big 10, due in large part to OLines getting a lot of push off the ball against Iowa. Similarly, Iowa ranks 8th in the Big 10 in sacks, with just 2.2 sacks per game. Iowa's leading sacker, who was expected to be a major impact player this year, Van Ness, ranks just 10th in the league in sacks, while Graves is 22nd. Waggoner, a 5th year senior and highly rated recruit, hasn't really made his mark with just 18 total tackles this season.

DBs (A-) - Iowa's DBs are always going to be great under Parker. This year's group actually returned a 1st team all-American and the expectation would be they would be near the top of college football once again in interceptions. Although Cooper DeJean has emerged as a super star, the DBs haven't quite reached elite status yet this year. Iowa ranks #2 in pass defense, but they've managed just 6 interceptions, ranking #6 in the conference. Individually, DeJean ranks second in interceptions and is tied with Schulte at 11th in pass breakups. Moss has been somewhat invisible out there (probably because opponents are throwing away from him), but he's forced 2 fumbles, which ranks 3rd in the conference. Merriweather can lay the wood, and ranks 42nd in tackles, which is relatively low for a safety.

Punter (A-) - Punting is winning, until it's not. Taylor is having another great year, no doubt about it. He owns the dubious distinction of leading the league, by a wide margin, in punts, at 7 per game. To me, that's a recipe for punting is losing. Although Taylor ranks second in yards per punt, the leader from Michigan State averages 5 yards per punt more. Rutgers has a punter who hasn't had a touchback since 2019. As for leg, Taylor's long punt of the year ranks 63rd in college football with a 63 yarder, while 7 punters nationally have punts of 70 yards or longer. Thus, while Taylor is having a fantastic year, he's not quite at the all-American level he may be perceived as.
 
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hexumhawk

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I agree with most of this.

The player I have been most disappointed with has been Benson. He has seemed to be in position most times but is whiffing on far too many tackles this year.

I also thought the portal should have been used on an edge rusher and it is kind of playing out to be true. DL hasn't been bad, but they have not been generally disruptive and have had a hard time against cohesive OLs (MICH/ILL) regarding getting push into the backfield.
 

uihawk82

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I agree with most of this.

The player I have been most disappointed with has been Benson. He has seemed to be in position most times but is whiffing on far too many tackles this year.

I also thought the portal should have been used on an edge rusher and it is kind of playing out to be true. DL hasn't been bad, but they have not been generally disruptive and have had a hard time against cohesive OLs (MICH/ILL) regarding getting push into the backfield.

With the linebackers getting so many tackles I would expect the safeties to not be real high on the tackle charts which is what you want. But as was stated Shulte and Merriweather, Castro and the other Dbacks are just doing a great job when they have to.
 

Greenway4Prez

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Jan 10, 2005
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I agree with most of this.

The player I have been most disappointed with has been Benson. He has seemed to be in position most times but is whiffing on far too many tackles this year.

I also thought the portal should have been used on an edge rusher and it is kind of playing out to be true. DL hasn't been bad, but they have not been generally disruptive and have had a hard time against cohesive OLs (MICH/ILL) regarding getting push into the backfield.
The only thing missing, IMO, is a Jaleel Johnson/Mike Daniels type at DT. Shannon is a fine player, and I think Black has potential, but the proverbial block-eater is missing. We get washed out a little too often.
 
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The only thing missing, IMO, is a Jaleel Johnson/Mike Daniels type at DT. Shannon is a fine player, and I think Black has potential, but the proverbial block-eater is missing. We get washed out a little too often.
Shannon does a nice job collecting blocks, but yeah not at the level Jaleel or even Ced Lattimore could. I'm bullish on Pittman for next year, he's got the size and frame to be a hog in the middle.
 
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SDHawkDoc

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Jan 27, 2013
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Agree with the D line comments. They are OK as a unit but lack both a pass rusher on the edge that is feared by the opposing O and enough beef in the middle to clog the run. They're not bad by any means, but definitely the weak link on the defensive side of the ball.
 

Bulldogs1974

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Oct 16, 2012
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As bad as Iowa's offense has been, the defense has been equally good. Or have they? The defense was supposed to be elite this year, so how do they compare with their peers? Would it shock you to learn that going into the Ohio State, where the stats will inevitably get worse, Iowa ranks 5th in the league in total defense? That's closer to a middle of the pack defense than a great one.

LBs (A+) - Going into the season, Iowa had the top LB group in the league. While it was a major blow to have Jacobs go down early, the LBs have still be the top performing group on the defense. Jack Campbell, Iowa's all-American, leads the league in tackles and it's not even close. Seth Benson is 4th (although if I have to find a spot to pick on with LBs, it's been that Benson has virtually no solo tackles on the year and pads his stats by jumping on piles). That's about as solid as it gets. Imagine how good they'd be with Jacobs.

DLine (C) - Believe it or not, although Iowa gets a lot of credit for stopping the run, this year's rushing defense ranks just 8th in the Big 10, due in large part to OLines getting a lot of push off the ball against Iowa. Similarly, Iowa ranks 8th in the Big 10 in sacks, with just 2.2 sacks per game. Iowa's leading sacker, who was expected to be a major impact player this year, Van Ness, ranks just 10th in the league in sacks, while Graves is 22nd. Waggoner, a 5th year senior and highly rated recruit, hasn't really made his mark with just 18 total tackles this season.

DBs (A-) - Iowa's DBs are always going to be great under Parker. This year's group actually returned a 1st team all-American and the expectation would be they would be near the top of college football once again in interceptions. Although Cooper DeJean has emerged as a super star, the DBs haven't quite reached elite status yet this year. Iowa ranks #2 in pass defense, but they've managed just 6 interceptions, ranking #6 in the conference. Individually, DeJean ranks second in interceptions and is tied with Schulte at 11th in pass breakups. Moss has been somewhat invisible out there (probably because opponents are throwing away from him), but he's forced 2 fumbles, which ranks 3rd in the conference. Merriweather can lay the wood, and ranks 42nd in tackles, which is relatively low for a safety.

Punter (A-) - Punting is winning, until it's not. Taylor is having another great year, no doubt about it. He owns the dubious distinction of leading the league, by a wide margin, in punts, at 7 per game. To me, that's a recipe for punting is losing. Although Taylor ranks second in yards per punt, the leader from Michigan State averages 5 yards per punt more. Rutgers has a punter who hasn't had a touchback since 2019. As for leg, Taylor's long punt of the year ranks 63rd in college football with a 63 yarder, while 7 punters nationally have punts of 70 yards or longer. Thus, while Taylor is having a fantastic year, he's not quite at the all-American level he may be perceived as.
Can't have an A+ lb core with a C dline, especially at iowa. Part of the dlines job is to allow the lbs to make plays. They do.
 
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Greenway4Prez

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Forget grades, is this defense Elite?
I think it’s really, really good, but it depends on what “elite” is defined as. Could we go up against Tennessee, USC and Ohio State and hold all of them below their season averages for yards and points? I’m not sure. Are you elite if you’re Top 10%? Top 5%? Even Georgia’s defense last year was lit up by Bama in the SECCG, but there is ZERO doubt that it was an elite unit.

IMO, there are no elite defenses this year (Georgia gave up 20+ to both Missouri and Kent State). Just a group of really, really, really good ones and I would put Iowa in that pile. Illinois hasn’t played a good offense yet, Bama and PSU both got boat-raced last week, we might this week.
 

SBWarriorHawk

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Oct 26, 2022
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As bad as Iowa's offense has been, the defense has been equally good. Or have they? The defense was supposed to be elite this year, so how do they compare with their peers? Would it shock you to learn that going into the Ohio State, where the stats will inevitably get worse, Iowa ranks 5th in the league in total defense? That's closer to a middle of the pack defense than a great one.

LBs (A+) - Going into the season, Iowa had the top LB group in the league. While it was a major blow to have Jacobs go down early, the LBs have still be the top performing group on the defense. Jack Campbell, Iowa's all-American, leads the league in tackles and it's not even close. Seth Benson is 4th (although if I have to find a spot to pick on with LBs, it's been that Benson has virtually no solo tackles on the year and pads his stats by jumping on piles). That's about as solid as it gets. Imagine how good they'd be with Jacobs.

DLine (C) - Believe it or not, although Iowa gets a lot of credit for stopping the run, this year's rushing defense ranks just 8th in the Big 10, due in large part to OLines getting a lot of push off the ball against Iowa. Similarly, Iowa ranks 8th in the Big 10 in sacks, with just 2.2 sacks per game. Iowa's leading sacker, who was expected to be a major impact player this year, Van Ness, ranks just 10th in the league in sacks, while Graves is 22nd. Waggoner, a 5th year senior and highly rated recruit, hasn't really made his mark with just 18 total tackles this season.

DBs (A-) - Iowa's DBs are always going to be great under Parker. This year's group actually returned a 1st team all-American and the expectation would be they would be near the top of college football once again in interceptions. Although Cooper DeJean has emerged as a super star, the DBs haven't quite reached elite status yet this year. Iowa ranks #2 in pass defense, but they've managed just 6 interceptions, ranking #6 in the conference. Individually, DeJean ranks second in interceptions and is tied with Schulte at 11th in pass breakups. Moss has been somewhat invisible out there (probably because opponents are throwing away from him), but he's forced 2 fumbles, which ranks 3rd in the conference. Merriweather can lay the wood, and ranks 42nd in tackles, which is relatively low for a safety.

Punter (A-) - Punting is winning, until it's not. Taylor is having another great year, no doubt about it. He owns the dubious distinction of leading the league, by a wide margin, in punts, at 7 per game. To me, that's a recipe for punting is losing. Although Taylor ranks second in yards per punt, the leader from Michigan State averages 5 yards per punt more. Rutgers has a punter who hasn't had a touchback since 2019. As for leg, Taylor's long punt of the year ranks 63rd in college football with a 63 yarder, while 7 punters nationally have punts of 70 yards or longer. Thus, while Taylor is having a fantastic year, he's not quite at the all-American level he may be perceived as.
same as every year - good/decent in home games vs bad teams and bad or 2nd team qb's (SDST) not so good vs good teams with decent qb (Michigan) awful vs great teams with great O's (OhioSt)
 

JLDHAWK

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Oct 1, 2001
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I think it’s really, really good, but it depends on what “elite” is defined as. Could we go up against Tennessee, USC and Ohio State and hold all of them below their season averages for yards and points? I’m not sure. Are you elite if you’re Top 10%? Top 5%? Even Georgia’s defense last year was lit up by Bama in the SECCG, but there is ZERO doubt that it was an elite unit.

IMO, there are no elite defenses this year (Georgia gave up 20+ to both Missouri and Kent State). Just a group of really, really, really good ones and I would put Iowa in that pile. Illinois hasn’t played a good offense yet, Bama and PSU both got boat-raced last week, we might this week.
I like your description of what elite is. Iowa's never been elite imo. A notch below probably. Georgia was elite for sure. Maybe one of the best ever. That championship game was thrown for Bama to get in the top 4.
 

Greenway4Prez

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I like your description of what elite is. Iowa's never been elite imo. A notch below probably. Georgia was elite for sure. Maybe one of the best ever. That championship game was thrown for Bama to get in the top 4.
I actually came away from the OSU game with a better opinion of Iowa’s defense. We threw them to the wolves repeatedly. Holding them to what we did was impressive. However, I agree, still not elite. I think our 2008 defense is the closest thing to elite we’ve had under KF. 2004 was great, but there were a few games games where that defense got thrashed.

Also, I only know a few people that share the opinion about the SECCG; that was intentional, I will not be convinced otherwise. And I think similar crap is going to happen this year to get 3 SEC teams in.