During media day Aug. 7, coaches said no thought had been given to shifting Iowa’s talented, veteran and quite large defensive ends to the inside.
The Hawkeyes are replacing four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul at the tackle positions. With juniors Adrian Clayborn (282 pounds) and Christian Ballard (285) pounds at end, it was a natural question, why not move one of those two inside?
“Barring injury or anything serious happening, I don’t see us doing that,” D-line coach Rick Kaczenski said on media day. “I think collectively inside, we should have enough.”
Last Saturday, during Iowa’s open practice, the D-line went Clayborn and sophomore Broderick Binns at end and Ballard and junior Karl Klug at tackle.
Now, it’s not written in ink, Coach Kirk Ferentz said, but the two factors that shaped the move more than anything else are the “best four” idea and the rise of Binns.
Any combination of Iowa defensive linemen for 2009 was going to include Clayborn, Ballard and Klug. They have the longest resumes.
Clayborn was all-Big Ten caliber at times last season with eight tackles for loss and two sacks. Ballard had 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries. In a backup role, Klug had five tackles for loss and two sacks. He won a Big Ten defensive player of the week honor, even if he jokes about it now.
“We’re trying to be flexible, trying to move guys around,” Clayborn said. “I could move down any second, for real. We’re just trying guys out at different positions to see what works best for the starting four. It’s not permanent, but we’re looking at it.”
In this combo, sophomore tackle Mike Daniels (6-1, 267) is the odd man out. But don’t read too much into that. Daniels might have been the most unblockable D-lineman in inside drills last Saturday.
All this boosts depth immediately. Daniels would be the third tackle with red-shirt freshman Steve Bigach, who sat out Saturday, and senior Travis Meade backing up.
Sophomore Lebron Daniel elevates to No. 3 end. Saturday, sophomore Cody Hundertmark rotated in with the No. 2s.
“We’re playing with it right now,” Ferentz said.
Through 11 practices before last Saturday, Binns continued his rise. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder has consistently earned rave reviews from Ferentz, dating to post-Outback Bowl interviews last season. It was more of the same after Saturday.
“I’ve been saying consistently and I can echo these comments after this past week of work, Broderick is doing a good job,” Ferentz said.
“He continues to really impress us.
“It could materialize, we’ll see how it goes. (Ballard) has done a nice job inside, too. That’s the other part of the equation. We wouldn’t want to move a player if it’s not good for him, too.”
Binns, who had two sacks and two pass breakups last season, might be 255. The 6-2, however, might be a stretch. What makes him a unique threat is an uncommon wingspan.
“I have no clue what it is, I haven’t measured it since eighth grade and I forgot,” Binns said with a laugh. “It’s definitely long and it’s a good asset to have.”
One person thrilled about the prospect of a 285-pound defensive tackle is middle linebacker Pat Angerer. More big bodies in front of him should mean fewer big bodies coming at him.
“Anytime you’ve got a 295-pound guy in front of you, it’s fun to go out there and play,” Angerer said. “Ballard is a freak athlete. He can play any position. He could probably play linebacker better than I can.”