This item was written by HawkeyeGameFilm. To read his thoughts on the offensive youngster, click here.
With all of the concerns about the defensive line going into this year, many people have looked at incoming freshmen Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekaktie as possible solutions. Generally speaking defensive line is one of the toughest spots to contribute at as a true freshman and it doesn’t look like this year will be any exception.
Both players have excellent combinations of athleticism and size and should be able to grow into starter caliber players. How fast that happens is up for grabs. Both guys struggled with technique and hand usage against the 3rd team OL. Both had some flashes and made plays with their raw ability but will need refinement to be consistent enough to see the field this year. Keep in mind these guys have only been around for a dozen or so practices at this point, but early indicators make me think they have a ways to go before seeing the field.
Melvin Spears and Darian Cooper were both running with the 2s defense on Saturday and both have a chance to earn reps. Cooper flashed some explosiveness and violent hands, beating blockers in the run game on a couple of occasions. He also displayed a high motor, a little reminiscent of Mike Daniels at times. He should push for time early in the season. Spears is still undersized for a D1 DE at this point and really struggled when he got tied up with bigger OTs in the run game. He tended to get engulfed and will need to do a better job using his hands to maintain position. He has the raw speed and quickness to turn the corner as a pass rusher, and did so several times out there Saturday. He may be able to get himself on the field if he raises his level of play against the run because Iowa is definitely looking for guys who can get to the QB from the edge.
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Marcus Collins and LaRon Taylor are the guys I spent the most time watching here. Marcus Collins was all over the place throughout the day and made some great reads. He beat blockers to the point of attack and slashed into the backfield and took down backs for loss several times. He also had a goal-line collision with FB Mark Weisman that was one of the biggest hits of the day and he kept him out of the end-zone on the play. Another guy I had my eyes on was LaRon Taylor, who looked undersized but was very rangy. Depending on how the injury situation with Quinton Alston plays out, Taylor may have an opportunity to contribute on special teams this year. Collins looks to be a guy who will see time on multiple special teams units this year.
Travis Perry was out there with the 2s and was noticeably heavier than when I saw him last Spring. He still was moving very well and doesn’t appear to have lost any speed or quickness while adding more size. He did struggle wading through traffic to find ball carriers. The physical tools are all there and he should only improve his reading ability at OLB.
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Iowa has a couple of very solid looking young CBs in Kevin Buford and Sean Draper. Both Draper and Buford are longer and leaner DBs with natural COD skills (change of direction). Both fit in with the shift toward more aggressive man coverage based schemes. Both guys gave up completions at times but most of the time they fit right in with the upperclassmen. With the season ending injury to Jordan Lomax and BJ Lowery out with a sprain, the development of the young CBs could be very important. Draper and Buford are possibilities as nickel and dime subpackage defenders and both worked there quite a bit Saturday. Draper saw the most work in the nickel of the two.
John Lowdermilk has claimed the backup FS spot on the depth chart and appears to have a solid grip on it. He ran with the 2s Saturday and looked sound in his drops and wasn’t out of position when I had my eyes on him. In the spring depth behind starter Tanner Miller was a question mark and appears Lowdermilk is the answer.