Originally published on 6/19/2014
IOWA CITY, Ia. – If you like athletes who set lofty standards, then you'll love Carl Davis.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound defensive tackle is standing tall as preseason expectations mount for the Iowa football team – and its formidable front four.
"We expect to be the best defensive line in the country," Davis said. "I don't care what anybody else says, or who has who."
Davis anchors a unit that includes fellow tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat, left end Drew Ott and right end Mike Hardy.
Pass-rushing specialist Nate Meier will also contribute.
"We might not make all the plays," Davis explained, "but we know us being the best defensive line is taking on the blockers and letting our linebackers come up and make plays, just like we did last year."
The Hawkeyes experienced a defensive revival last fall.
After allowing an average of 381.6 yards and 22.9 points per game in 2012, Iowa held its 2013 opponents to 303.1 yards and 18.9 points.
Much of the credit goes to a defensive line that held 11 of its 12 regular-season foes under their rushing average.
"In 2012, we were just so young and inexperienced," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "… At least this year, you've got three starters back."
Davis, Trinca-Pasat and Ott were mainstays last season. Hardy became a solidifying force and started the final six games.
Hardy, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound native of Appleton, Wis., made a total of six tackles as a freshman and sophomore, then recorded 34 as a junior.
"(Hardy) was one of the good stories of the season," Ferentz said, "because I'm not sure we saw that coming, the way he played."
Now, people see the potential for dominance.
"We've got a good core," Ferentz said, "but that doesn't mean we're there yet.
"We've got to get better, and we have to develop guys to come in and help out, as well."
How does Ferentz prevent complacency? By pitting his talented defensive line against an equally promising offensive line.
"It usually is ones versus ones," left tackle Brandon Scherff said. "Carl's a heck of a player, so he's going to be going against (right guard) Jordan Walsh, kicking him in gear.
"Drew Ott is a heck of a player, he's pushing me each day. Louis is a senior, and he's pushing (left guard) Sean (Welsh). Sean's a redshirt freshman, so he gets a little taste of what it's like. That's good for him."
Right tackle Andrew Donnal is cracking pads with Hardy and Meier.
"When it comes to camp, that's a tough time," Davis said. "You're sore all the time, and it's just a grind. Everybody is angry. You're going against the same guys every day, doing the same drills.
"But I cannot wait to get that first game in."
The season kicks off Aug. 30 against Northern Iowa. That's when the Hawkeyes hope to begin their climb to prominence.
"We still feel like we're irrelevant, until we get national recognition," Davis said. "Until guys know, 'Hey, this is Iowa,' we're not satisfied.
"Maybe people know us in the Big Ten a little bit, but we still don't feel like we're respected enough."