Iowa Football 2014: Defensive breakdown
True freshman could play
The front line is a fearsome force. Carl Davis (42 tackles in 2013) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (eight tackles for loss) man the interior. Drew Ott (four QB hurries) and Mike Hardy (16 solo stops) are the ends.
Nate Meier played in all 13 games last season and spent a lot of time with the starters during last week's scrimmage. "Nate has had a great summer," defensive line coach Reese Morgan said. "I think you'll see a bigger, stronger Nate this year."
Matt Nelson, a true freshman from Cedar Rapids Xavier, is working with the second team. Riley McMinn, a junior, gives Iowaanother potential pass rusher.
Waiting in the wings are Darian Cooper, Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata. "Faith and Jaleel have big bodies," Morgan said. "You're just looking for continued improvement."
Alston the central figure
Things remain in flux, except the middle linebacker spot. That belongs to senior Quinton Alston, with whom coach Kirk Ferentz tabbed as the one member of this starting group he feels most secure.
Reggie Spearman and Travis Perry had been listed as starters on the outside, but Ferentz has left the door open for rotating personnel. Josey Jewell played with the first unit in the Aug. 16 scrimmage, and Ferentz touted the Decorah product's aggressiveness. Chad Gilson missed the scrimmage with an injury.
Don't be surprised if Bo Bower gets significant snaps. Redshirt freshman Luke Lindahl joined as a walk-on, but seems to be gaining notice.
Junior Cole Fisher saw action in 10 games last season, mostly on special teams. Redshirt freshman John Kenny earned all-state honors in Indiana.
The battle to be King's wingman at cornerback
Senior strong safety John Lowdermilk is Iowa's most experienced secondary player, while sophomore right cornerback Desmond King tries to back up a surprising rookie season. Jordan Lomax, a junior who moved from corner to free safety, had been injured each of the last two seasons.
Greg Mabin, Sean Draper and Maurice Fleming are competing to start at the other corner. Malik Rucker (right corner) and safeties Miles Taylor, Solomon Warfield, Anthony Gair and Kevin Ward are in the mix for playing time.
Iowa has several true freshmen in addition to Taylor looking to add depth, including Jalen Embry, Omar Truitt, Marcel Joly and Josh Jackson.
Mystery at kicking spots
The re-shuffling begins at kicker, where Marshall Koehn, a junior from Solon, is the favorite to replace four-year starter Mike Meyer. Mick Ellis, a scholarship player, and Miguel Recinos, a walk-on, will also have a chance to prove themselves. "You never know until the lights are on," special teams coach Chris White said. "We'll try to be in live situations, then throw them in there and see how they respond."
Connor Kornbrath is back at punter, but junior college transfer Dillon Kidd has made a strong showing. "We both realize we want to accomplish the same thing," Kidd said, "and we're both trying to help each other get better."
Tyler Kluver, a redshirt freshman from Marshalltown, is the leading contender to replace Casey Kreiter at long snapper.
Kevonte Martin-Manley averaged 15.7 yards as a punt returner, with two touchdowns. But he needs to be more consistent. Jordan Canzeri should contribute on kickoff returns.