The Big Ten defensive player of the week honor Karl Klug received last fall isn’t some shining beacon in his apartment.
He’s kind of embarrassed about it, actually.
Yet, there it was.
Klug set career highs with nine tackles and two sacks while also forcing a fumble in Iowa’s 42-0 walk-through against Florida International last fall. His second sack forced a fumble that stopped FIU’s final drive and preserved Iowa’s shutout.
Mop-up time. Florida International. Big Ten defensive player of the week.
“Yeah, it’s hard taking credit for it,” Klug said, laughing. “I was thrown in there during the second half. I don’t know. I feel like it’s almost a fluke thing.”
Of course, the 6-foot-4, 258-pound tackle would like to earn one, really earn one, this season.
He’s bided his time behind four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul. He’s fought off some nasty injuries, including a herniated disc, a toe surgery to fix torn tendons and broken bones. He had a concussion last season. The back cost him most of his true freshman season and is something he still rehabs. The toe injury held him out of 10 games in 2007.
He’s built his body from 207-pound linebacker from Caledonia (Minn.) High School to Big Ten defensive tackle.
Ready or not, it’s Klug’s turn.
He’s cemented in any configuration of Iowa’s D-line. The latest has Klug pairing with Christian Ballard at tackle with Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns at ends.
Klug looks more like a linebacker. In fact, his twin brother, Kevin, is a 210-pound linebacker at Minnesota State. Karl Klug is a Big Ten defensive tackle who weighs in at 260.
This can be done. It has been done, at Iowa, with King and Kroul. But 260 is 260.
“He’s got to be perfect (with technique),” Iowa D-line coach Rick Kaczenski said.
“There’s not a lot of margin for error with Karl. But that’s really across the board, if you’re 300 pounds or 250 pounds. If you’re playing with your pads high, it’s going to be a long day.”
Let’s talk weight.
It’s not a big deal for Iowa’s coaches, obviously. They’ve employed undersized, cat-quick D-tackle types now for several seasons. It works for their gap scheme and for the techniques they teach.
Klug is the latest model.
“Really, you’ve got to be more physical. You’ve got to outwork them. I’ve got to use my quickness to my advantage,” Klug said. “That’s really how I feel. These are winnable matchups.”
Klug’s demeanor reflects his small-town Minnesota roots.
He’s quiet and shy. The first words out of his mouth before this interview were, “Those things make me nervous,” talking about TV cameras.
When Klug committed to the Hawkeyes in 2005, his high school coach, Carl Fruechte, called Iowa news outlets. Klug? Caledonia? Huh?
Caledonia is about 12 miles north of Decorah, so it sits right on the Iowa border. It bills itself as the “wild turkey capital” of Minnesota. It has one stoplight.
Klug grew up a couple miles outside of Caledonia, on a farm where his dad, Dan, grew up.
But they didn’t really farm, Karl said. He remembered three sheep.
“I love Caledonia,” he said. “I love the feeling where you can go to the grocery store and know everybody and wave to everybody.”
Of course, one stop light. And one Big Ten player of the week.
You receive a certificate for this honor, by the way.
“I’m definitely proud of it (the award),” Klug said. “But I’d rather just win games.”
Iowa’s defensive line at a glance
Defensive line: DT Karl Klug, jr., 6-4, 258 (17 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 1 forced fumble), DT Christian Ballard, jr., 6-5, 285 (40 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hurries); DE Adrian Clayborn, jr., 6-3, 282 (50 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, three pass breakups), DE Broderick Binns, so., (20 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 pass breakups).
Others in the mix: DT Mike Daniels, so., (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack), DE Lebron Daniel, so., (1 fumble recovery), DT Steve Bigach, fr., (redshirted), DT/DE Cody Hundertmark, so., (redshirted/injured), DT Travis Meade, sr., (on O-line)
In the know: The big question appears to have been answered. Yes, one of the talented, veteran Defensive ends did slide down to tackle. During Iowa’s open scrimmage on Aug. 15, Christian Ballard played tackle and Broderick Binns found his way to the field at the end spot. Binns proved himself to be a capable playmaker on the defensive line last season, making big plays in a limited amount of playing time. Ballard is, as linebacker Pat Angerer puts it, a “freak athlete.” He’s big, strong and fast and, apparently, willing to do whatever it takes to help the team … DT Karl Klug is an athletic anomaly. He’s only 260 pounds, yet he has a knack and feel for the leverage it takes to play defensive tackle. He’s a No. 1 now, in on every configuration of this DL. Will he be able to withstand full-time starter minutes? … One player to watch is DT Mike Daniels. He’s on the short-ish, small-ish side for a DT, only about 6-1 and 270, but he’s one of the strongest Hawkeyes and plays with a pad level that leaves D-line coaches smiling.
Bowling if … Iowa probably won’t stop the run as it did last season, when opponents averaged just 3.1 yards a carry and 94 yards a game. What’s a reasonable expectation for this group? The most important element the Hawkeyes need to find is the DL “fighter.” This is the guy who can stand at the point of attack and hold his ground. Matt Kroul was all-Big Ten in this last season. Will Klug or Ballard be able to fill this role? This is a different talent than the quick penetration that Mitch King brought to the table, but it’s equally important. Sacks aren’t the be-all, end-all measure of success for a D-line, but it wouldn’t hurt to see a few more of those here, and they’d be the first to tell you that.
— Marc Morehouse