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Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Nielsen’

A look at the linebackers

Monday, August 16th, 2010

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.

Depth for fall may be better than ever

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Iowa may or may not have one of its best football teams ever next fall.

One thing that does seem certain: It will be one of the deepest teams it has had.

The Hawkeyes will be pretty well insulated against injuries at almost every position except pos-sibly the offensive line and safety. Everywhere else, there are pretty good players waiting in the wings in case the starter goes down.

A look at the Hawkeyes by position following spring drills:

Quarterback: Ricky Stanzi is going into his third season as the starter and should be less turn-over-prone. That was a major point of emphasis in the spring. James Vandenberg showed last sea-son that he can be a capable backup and you get the feeling southpaw John Wienke gained ground on Vandenberg in the spring. The coaches said he made a major step up and you could see it in the spring scrimmage. Wienke looked crisper and more accurate than Vandenberg that day.

Running back: If Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher all are healthy, this is going to be very interesting. Robinson may have a slight edge in some of the little things like pick-ing up the blitz, but the other two probably are more elusive and have a bigger upside. It’s almost guaranteed that one of them will get hurt anyway. If more than one gets hurt, I still think there is a chance freshman Marcus Coker could be a factor right away.

Fullback: Senior Brett Morse is solid and there’s not a ton of drop-off to junior Wade Leppert. This isn’t an every-down position anyway.

Wide receiver: Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos have a chance to be the Hawk-eyes’ best receiver tandem since … well, maybe ever. Colin Sandeman and Paul Chaney are pretty good, too. If Keenan Davis improves as much as the coaches hope and Jordan Cotton continues to progress and 6-foot-6 Don Nordmann is as good as he looked in the spring scrimmage, they’re loaded.

Tight end: Don’t be surprised if Allen Reisner duplicates the statistical numbers Tony Moeaki provided last year although he’s probably not going to be as good a blocker. Brad Herman and Jonathan Gimm apparently made strides as the backups this spring but they still might have trou-ble holding off high school All-American C.J. Fiedorowicz, who should be game-ready when he arrives.

Offensive line: There is good depth at center, where James Ferentz and Josh Koeppel are bat-tling for the starting job, but this is one place the depth is a bit thin. There are a lot of big bodies behind Riley Reiff, Julian Vandervelde, Markus Zusevics and Adam Gettis but apparently no one who is ready to play with any sort of consistency. Coach Kirk Ferentz said converted defensive lineman Cody Hundertmark is the closest to being ready. If no one steps forward in the fall, there may be an opportunity for Ohio high school star Andrew Donnal to see playing time as a true freshman.

Defensive line: The Hawkeyes may be deeper than ever here. All four starters – Adrian Clay-born, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns – return intact with Clayborn and appar-ently Klug primed for starring roles. And some of us have felt for some time that Ballard ranks among the most underrated players on this team. Backup tackle Mike Daniels is good enough to start for half the teams in the Big Ten and young ends LeBron Daniel and Dominic Alvis have emerged as potential stars of the future. Pencil in Daniels and Daniel as certain starters for 2011.

Linebacker
: This is another area where the competition has been fierce. Jeremiha Hunter is a third-year starter and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen have emerged as the starters at the other two spots, but Bruce Davis and Troy Johnson are still pushing. Even long-time walk-on Ross Peter-sen looked good in the spring scrimmage. You’ll still see some true freshman play here in the fall, though, as the Hawkeyes brace for the future. Hunter, Tarpinian, Johnson and Petersen are seniors and Davis and Nielsen are juniors.

Cornerback: Shaun Prater is solidly entrenched on one side and sophomore Micah Hyde may be a future star on the other side. Jordan Bernstine, projected to start ahead of Prater last fall before breaking his ankle, may have a hard time finding playing time but he, Greg Castillo and William Lowe provide quality depth.

Safety: Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood – known to some of us as Sashwood – are one of the best tandems in the country but it’s hard to even guess at who the backups are at this point. Walk-ons Kyle Steinbrecher and Tom Donatell ran with the No. 1 unit in the spring scrimmage, apparently moving ahead of two scholarship players, Jack Swanson and Nick Nielsen, in the final week of drills. All those players have good size and Nielsen had two interceptions last Saturday. The depth isn’t necessarily bad, just unproven.

Kicker: Daniel Murray is the returning starter, but Ferentz has made it clear he wasn’t com-pletely satisfied with the job he did. Trent Mossbrucker, who redshirted last season after being the kicker for much of 2008, has at least an shot at winning the job.

Punter: Another place where the depth isn’t great behind four-year regular Ryan Donahue. But how often does your punter get hurt anyway?

Linebacker battle is intriguing

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Most of the talk regarding the Iowa football team this spring is going to be about rebuilding the offensive line. With only two starters back, there are a lot of unknowns there.

But there similar mysteries – if not similar concerns — regarding the three linebacker positions. The Hawkeyes essentially have five guys contending for three spots.

All five candidates are juniors or seniors. All weigh between 232 and 238 pounds. All have played quite a bit, at least on special teams. All have their best football in front of them.

Jeremiha Hunter is the one guy with really extensive playing experience. He has been the starting weakside linebacker for the past two seasons and although he usually was overshadowed by the departed Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, he’s been a very solid player. You might remember him as the guy who blocked the second field goal attempt against Northern Iowa to preserve a 17-16 victory in last year’s season opener.

Hunter has been backed up for two years by Jeff Tarpinian, a highly regarded player who has been patiently waiting for his chance to play.

When it was determined just before kickoff of the Minnesota game last season that neither Hunter or Tarpinian could play, the Hawkeyes tossed Troy Johnson into the weakside breach. All he did was earn Big Ten Defensive Player of Week honors with his performance.

Bruce Davis looked like an animal on special teams and in the few snaps he got in relief of An-gerer last season.

And Tyler Nielsen is one those guys we’ve been hearing about for a few years but seldom have seen because he was stuck behind Edds at the other outside linebacker position.

Now all these guys finally have a chance to start. The competition should be pretty intense.

Going into spring drills, Hunter, Johnson and Nielsen are listed as the starters but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Davis and Tarpinian in the lineup next fall. Whoever ends up on the field, Ferentz is confident they’ll do a great job. They might not be Angerer and Edds, but they’ll be solid.

“Quite frankly I’m almost more worried about a year from now at our linebacker spots,’’ Ferentz admitted. “Sounds kind of funny, with two pretty good seniors graduating, but we are top heavy age wise.’’

He said we’ll undoubtedly see one or two freshmen play a lot of special teams next fall – probably James Morris and possibly Austin Gray? – if only to give them some experience for the following season when Hunter, Johnson and Tarpinian will be gone.