IOWA CITY — Broderick Binns has answered the defensive line question for six months, since the windy, chilly April spring game.
He’s a fifth-year senior. He has some stripes on the field, although slightly faded after a forgettable 2010. He’s the first Hawkeye D-lineman most media recognize and request for interviews. So, he answers the question.
The question hasn’t changed all that much. After losing three NFL draft picks, how is Iowa going to cobble together a defensive line in 2011? Maybe Binns’ stare when it came up again Tuesday said it all.
“It’s time to just play,” the 6-foot-2, 261-pound said. “I think we are going to open some eyes.
“By all means, it’s going to be tough. This game is hard. Just because we’ve had players of that caliber in years past, doesn’t mean we’re going to come out and just stop teams and teams won’t be able to rush on us. It’s definitely tough, but I think we’ve put in some really good work and I’m anxious to see how we do in that first game.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday he sees a rotation of six and maybe eight going into Saturday’s opener against Tennessee Tech. Binns and tackle Mike Daniels are the pegs. The idea for the rotation, Ferentz said, is to figure out who can do what and then, maybe, narrow that six to eight.
“We need to get them out there and see how they react,” Ferentz said. “Karl Klug was new two years ago and it worked out for him. That’s college football. That’s the fun part. If a guy emerges like Klug, there will be three guys not doing a lot of rotating.”
Klug was a fifth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans and has been a starter at tackle during the preseason.
Yeah, if a guy like Klug emerges, the D-line question might slow and maybe even stop. Right now, it’s impossible to gauge the size of that “if.”
“We’ve been around so many great players in our four or five years here, we get to take what we learn from them and spread it around,” Daniels said.
If that works, the Iowa D-line will again be a strength in ’11. Going back to the early 2000′s, the string of Hawkeye D-linemen in the NFL is considerable. Jonathan Babineaux (Falcons) and Matt Roth (Jacksonville) are still in the league from the ’04 Hawkeyes. Roth trades snaps with ’01 Hawkeye Aaron Kampman.
From ’07, Kenny Iwebema (Cardinals) and Bryan Mattison (center for the Ravens) are still in the league. Twin tackles Mitch King (Saints) and Matt Kroul (OL for the Jets) are hanging in. Last April, Adrian Clayborn went to Tampa Bay in the first round. Christian Ballard (Vikings) and Klug (Titans) followed. Tackle Colin Cole (’02) is a starter for the Seahawks. Derreck Robinson (’04 grad with the Browns) also is hanging on.
Quite the legacy for the ’11 group to answer. Six to eight will try.
“I think Iowa’s been really blessed to have guys come through the program and lead with good examples and practice at a high tempo and obviously go on to good NFL careers,” Binns said. “For myself, it’s kind of hard to live up to those expectations, but all I can do and all I can hope my teammates do is give our best.”
Binns is a given. He was a given in 2010, too, but a summer OWI arrest hung over his season. After 5.5 sacks in ’09, Binns didn’t record one last season. He had one tackle for loss after 9.5 in ’09. He eventually fell out of the starting lineup.
“Last year was last year,” Binns said. “We’ve been through it. I’m anxious, the team’s anxious.”
Daniels, another given, can’t wait to see a new, improved Binns, who’s approach to spring and summer workouts has been fierce.
“He’s been bringing that hammer,” Daniels said. “He’s been setting the tone in practice and making guys want to work to the level that he’s working at.”
After Binns and Daniels, Iowa doesn’t have another no-brainer given. End Lebron Daniels is a fifth-year senior who was behind Clayborn his entire career. Tackle Thomas Nardo is a 6-3, 277-pound senior who was a walk-on until he was awarded a scholarship this spring. You’ll probably see sophomore Dominic Alvis at tackle and end. At 6-4, 260, he’s an end-sized tackle.
Tackle Carl Davis, a 310-pounder, was a contender for time before he suffered a leg injury in camp. He’s out this week.
Binns succinctly summed up where the Hawkeyes’ defensive line — arguably Iowa’s signature position group of the last five seasons– is heading into Saturday’s opener.
“It’s our turn to go out and see what we’re made of.”