DEFENSIVE END DOMINIC ALVIS
Arrival: The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder broke through last season after three years of turning his body into a Big Ten defensive lineman's body (Alvis was 215 pounds when he arrived as a true freshman in Iowa City). The former Logan-Magnolia prep started eight games, including the first two at defensive tackle, and made 30 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.
After sliding to end and finding a comfort level, Alvis suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 5 against Michigan on a "punt safe" of all things. So, after three years of getting his body where it needed to be, it was back to the shop for Alvis.
When the Hawkeyes report for camp on Aug. 2, Alvis will be nearly 10 months off the injury. He's been on track all along. In April, Alvis said he'd be ready in June. In June, he reported that he was participating in summer workouts and 100 percent.
Now, summer workouts and an inside running drill in August are two different things, but so far so good. Alvis' health is a very big deal for a defensive line that needs experienced and big bodies. Specifically, defensive end needs a healthy Alvis.
A healthy Alvis, a year-better and more mature Alvis, is a critical piece to Iowa's D-line. Without him, it's probably totally untested freshman Melvin Spears or nearly untested sophomore Mike Hardy. Or . . . who knows.
Healthy, productive Alvis is critical.
2012 Takeoff: Alvis goes into this season at 265 pounds, up 10 from last season. He called 265 his "desired" weight.
"Ten pounds will make all the difference," he said. "Playing at 245 to 255 was huge, so I'm sure 265 will give me better leverage playing against guys 300-plus. It's all about getting leverage on the other guy, horizontal and linear. If I can get his hands off me and I can get to his chest first, I've won, pretty much. That's my goal."
Alvis is totally aware of the question marks being thrown the D-line's way. How could he not be? Here's what he said he saw in the group late last month: "We like being the underdogs. We have a lot to prove. We're young, but gosh dang, we can move. Some of the practices I've seen, we were flying around last spring. We were looking good."
The tough part of Alvis' injury was the timing. It was late in the season, which puts a clock on the rehab, but he also found his stride at end. He was starting to get to the quarterback with a little consistency. He also played the run well.
"I think part of why I was kind of getting in the groove was the mentality I brought through the week," Alvis said. "I was prepared for Saturday. I had to learn how to do that through guys like Broderick [Binns] and Mike [Daniels]. It eventually started clicking and clicking. I've got to get back to that this year and make some progress."
He compared it to losing his job.
"You work so hard for something and all of the sudden, it gets pulled away from you and what do I do now?" he said. "That was the hardest part to overcome. I just focused on rehab and health."
Remember, Alvis did give tackle a try last season at 255 pounds, maybe that was Iowa coaches trying to catch Mitch King in a bottle. Don't look for that to happen this season. Alvis has made it clear that he's willing to do anything to help the team, but he also feels as though end is where he belongs.
And that's where Iowa needs him.