Projected starters – MLB Jeff Tarpinian (6-3, 238, sr.), WLB Jeremiha Hunter (6-2, 235, sr.), OLB Tyler Nielsen (6-4, 235, jr.)
Top reserves – Troy Johnson (6-2, 235, sr.), Bruce Davis (6-0, 232, jr.), Ross Petersen (6-3, 236, sr.), Lance Tillison (6-2, 215, jr.)
Futures – James Morris (6-2, 215, fr.), Shane DiBona (6-2, 230, fr.), Austin Gray (6-2, 210, fr.), Terrance Pryor (6-1, 215, so.), Jim Poggi (6-2, 212, fr.), Christian Kirksey (6-2, 195, fr.)
There is no question that the graduation of Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds represented a huge loss, perhaps more in terms of leadership than talent. But the Hawkeye coaches don’t seem all that con-cerned, probably because they have experienced players ready to step into the breach.
Tarpinian has been on the verge of seeing significant playing time for a couple of years but keeps getting set back by injuries. He seems primed now to fill Angerer’s spot in the middle of the defense and by all accounts, is thriving in that role. Nielsen, who has much less on-field experience, seems equally ready to fill Edds’ shoes. Hunter has quietly made 169 tackles over the past two years and made one of the biggest plays of Iowa’s 2009 season when he swatted down Northern Iowa’s second field goal attempt in the final seconds of the opener. He’s ready to emerge from the shadow cast by Angerer and Edds.
Johnson and Davis also are very experienced and could still break into the starting lineup if Tar-pinian and Nielsen don’t produce. When Hunter and Tarpinian were unexpectedly determined to be unfit to play in last fall’s regular-season finale, Johnson was thrust into the starting lineup and ended up being the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week. Davis was a special teams standout last season. Another player to watch is Morris, an athletic true freshman who figures to at least see action on special teams this season.