Our series continues looking at a player or a group of players from each Big Ten team who needs a home run type of summer before preseason camp begins. Who needs to hit it out of the park in preparation for the season?
For previous entries, click here.
In the batter's box: Iowa
Who needs to step it up: The defensive linemen
After years of producing All-Big Ten players and NFL draftees, Iowa's defensive line looks dangerously inexperienced and undermanned entering the 2012 season. The Hawkeyes' spring depth chart lists two redshirt freshmen (Darian Cooper and Riley McMinn) in starting positions, alongside two seniors (Steve Bigach and Joe Gaglione) who combined for 32 tackles last season and haven't been a big part of the plan. Help is on the way as tackles Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis return from injuries, but the overall group has many more questions than answers. Iowa should be solid and potentially very good in the defensive back seven, but most defenses sink or swim with their lines. This summer is huge for Iowa's younger defensive linemen, players like Cooper and McMinn and Louis Trinca-Pasat and Melvin Spears. They're going to be thrown into the fire to varying degrees, and they're going to need to perform. It's also big for a player like Bigach to establish himself as a leader. We talked about that this spring, and Bigach understands the responsibility on his shoulders and the importance of upholding the tradition along the front four. I was a bit skeptical at first about assistant Reese Morgan moving from offensive line to defensive line with so much youth there, but Morgan's veteran expertise should help the young players. Iowa's defensive line will be a work in progress for much of the season, but a strong summer could raise the ceiling for the group this fall.