Iowa's defense was on the field for 826 plays last season. It feels as though defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat was out there for 900-something.
The 6-3, 290-pounder was an iron horse. He was as close to a fixture on Iowa's D-line as the Hawkeyes had. He finished his first season as a starter with 40 tackles, 4 tackles for loss (fifth on the team), two QB hurries, a batted pass and a blocked kick.
Trinca-Pasat, who nearly walked away from the game in December 2011 with mounting injuries, also finished with a torn rotator cuff ("Just a minor repair," he said. "It sucks sitting out spring, I'm not going to lie.") That cost him offseason activity, including spring practice. He spent a lot of winter training trying to regain the range of motion in his shoulder. He wasn't able to dive into weights until March, which, probably, is better late than never.
"I'm just trying to keep a competitive edge," he said. "Even though I'm not on the field, I'm still competing with speed drills and other things in the weightroom."
There's a fair chance that Iowa went to a rotation on the D-line at the end of the 2012 (something the staff plans to continue this year) because Trinca-Pasat was spackled together. Coaches love that toughness.
"I think was kind of an unnoticed guy last year," Ferentz said. "I think his next two years will be really interesting because he's played now and he really understands what it takes. He's a tough-minded guy, so he will be a good player. We've got some guys to build off there."
That kind of valor, though, comes with a physical price. How well can Trinca-Pasat hold up this season? How much will a rotation help?
Key 2012 factor: Going into the December practices before the '11 Insight Bowl, Trinca-Pasat was a goner.
“There was a period right after Thanksgiving, I think it might have been,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He had gone home and came in and said, basically, he wasn’t sure about playing. I thought it was a mistake certainly, so I encouraged him to take a couple of days away from it. I think he missed two practices.”
His road to a two-deep DT was long, to say the least.
Mainly, he played defensive end and tight end at Lane Tech in Chicago when Iowa recruited him. He also played some wide receiver. Trinca-Pasat only started playing football when he was a freshman at Lane Tech, where he caught eight TD passes as a senior.
He arrived at Iowa in January of 2010, an early enrollee and a bona fide defensive tackle project at 235 or so pounds. He'd had enough going into December 2011. The light came on, though, during those bowl practices. His weight climbed to 283 and he felt he could finally wield it like he needed to.
Then last season, he played 12,000 snaps. (Exaggerating, obviously, but he did play more than probably any other DL.)
Offseason factor: Obviously, LTP didn't train the way he wanted to with the shoulder. One question there is does it simply flip his schedule? The winter months are for the heavy muscle growth workouts. LTP is, still, an undersized DT, so these are crucial and he sat them out with the shoulder repair. He was cleared in March, so you wonder if that training came when he was able to do it. (Then again, Matt Kroul was only ever 285 as an Iowa DT. LTP is there now.)
Competition: Iowa has a set of four DTs -- LTP, Carl Davis, Darian Cooper and Jaleel Johnson. Trinca-Pasat gets a crack at No. 1. I think he holds. What Ferentz said about him knowing what it takes goes a long way, especially at one of the most volatile positions on the field. Junior Mike Hardy also is a DT candidate. Trinca-Pasat is on solid ground, and a rotation will go along way toward keeping him fresh.
Why No. 18?: When Iowa is right, it has an above-average defensive line. Iowa's D-line isn't asked to exclusively rush the passer (gap 2 is a heavy technique and the long way around). Still, the DL will be counted on for pressure. That has to come this year. LTP will have a chance to be a banner carrier in that category. Along with Davis, Dominic Alvis, Drew Ott and whoever else shows a feel for it.
Outlook: If Trinca-Pasat's shoulder is good to go, it'll be interesting to see how he can grow his game. He has two seasons and his body has rounded into a B1G DT's body. The idea of a rotation would go a long way in preserving LTP's body/health. Let's wait-and-see if that develops.Click here for an interactive look at the complete Top 45 series.