The Iowa Hawkeyes defense has continued to get better and better these past few seasons, culminating in a top-10 unit in 2013. The 2014 unit is losing their top three tacklers from last year, two of whom were selected in the recent NFL Draft (linebackers Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens), but there’s still some intriguing talent, especially in the front four and secondary. So just who are the top 2015 NFL Draft prospects on defense for the Hawkeyes this fall?
Up front the Hawkeyes boast arguably the best pair of defensive tackles in the Big Ten in seniors Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. Davis (6-foot 5, 315-pounds) pretty much came out of nowhere as a first year starter last year, eventually winding up with second team All-Big Ten honors. His numbers won’t ever be elite, but that’s not the role he plays. He’s what coaches like to call a ‘creator’ for everyone else on the defense. Usually playing an even front nose, his massive strength at the point of attack makes him nearly immovable, which necessitates another blocker, which usually leaves a linebacker behind him unblocked or at least gives him enough time to get in position to make a play. He has good hands and uses his long arms well, though he still needs to develop his footwork. I like his potential as a nose in either even or odd fronts at the next level.
If Davis is the thunder, Trinca-Pasat is the lightning. His game is predicated on speed and quickness as opposed to massive size and strength like Davis. This guy has good explosion off the ball and can get up field in a hurry. He plays with a never-ending motor and goes to the whistle on each play, and to boot was on the Academic All-Big Ten team. At 6-foot 3, 290-pounds, Trinca-Pasat’s size isn’t elite, but I think he could be a very good fit in the right defense at the next level, specifically as a penetrating 3-tech in an even front.
Senior MLB Quinton Alston didn’t put up huge numbers as a reserve last year, but he’s a good athlete with quick diagnostics. He has good speed and lateral quickness and knows how to use the big hogmollies in front of him to his advantage. At 6-foot 1, 232-pounds, he could struggle to shed blocks at the next level, but could be an intriguing option playing weak side in an even front. He’s a guy who’s stock could rise the most on this defense in 2014 with a strong season manning the middle.
In the secondary you should keep an eye on senior strong safety John Lowdermilk, who can bring the load at 6-foot 2, 210-pounds. Lowdermilk is a smart and savvy vet with good leadership skills and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s very strong against the run and has no problems coming up in the box, and is solid in coverage. He doesn’t have the speed you’d like to see him line up in much man coverage but should have no problem in zone at the next level. The fact that his old man (Kirk Lowdermilk) was a 12-year NFL vet won’t hurt hist stock either.