After a 4-8 campaign in 2012, the Iowa Hawkeyes are searching for answers this spring to find more success in 2013. One of the biggest areas of concern for Kirk Ferentz and company is the pass rush, or lack there of. If the Hawkeyes hope to have any more success next fall, they will need to find someone to step up and bring pressure, particularly from the defensive end position.
Last season, Iowa ranked No. 115 in the country in sacks, recording just 13 all year long. The Hawkeyes don’t run a lot of blitz packages to manufacture pressure, so they rely on the defensive line to apply it, which it failed to do a season ago. Their leading sack man from 2012, Joe Gaglione who notched five sacks, has graduated, leaving a vacuum of pass rushing ability in an already weak position.
Dominic Alvis is back for his senior season after finishing second on the team in sacks in 2012 with three. He’s made 21 starts at Iowa, but only has 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, so there isn’t much to indicate that he’ll be able to turn it on in his senior season.
That opens the door for some younger guys to step up and make a name for themselves this season. Their options include some less-than-heralded sophomores who have done little to differentiate themselves with the Hawkeyes and would be a major surprise if they came on all of a sudden next fall.
Ferentz may have to rely on his defensive tackles to apply the necessary pressure to make Iowa’s defense run. Junior Louis Trinca-Pasat and sophomore Darian Cooper were strong last season, getting consistent penetration, though they failed to record a single sack between them. If they can turn their ability to push back offensive linemen into a reliable pass rush, they could help the Hawkeyes out immensely.
But in the likely event that they don’t, Iowa may be in trouble. Without an elite, athletic end they can turn loose in a pass rush, the Hawkeyes will have to manufacture pressure with blitzes, though that would be wildly out of character for Kirk Ferentz. If the coaches can’t adapt next fall, they may be in line for another long season.