POSITIONAL AWARENESS 2017: DEFENSIVE TACKLE

By Mike Jones on July 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm
Lattimore

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

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Positional Awareness is our annual rundown of the Iowa depth chart, from the position where we are most confident in what Kirk Ferentz intends to do to, well, wide receiver.

Previously on Positional Awareness:

  1. Linebacker
  2. Running Back
  3. Offensive Line
  4. Cornerback
Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2017 2018 2019 2020
77 Daniel Gaffey SR 6-2/285 Defensive Tackle        
88 Jake Hulett SR 6-3/289 Right Tackle        
99 Nathan Bazata SR 6-2/287 Right Tackle        
53 Garret Jansen SO 6-2/280 Defensive Tackle        
58 Jake Newborg SO 6-3/290 Defensive Tackle        
95 Cedrick Lattimore SO 6-5/295 Left Tackle        
91 Brady Reiff SO 6-3/260 Left Tackle        
66 Dalles Jacobus FR(RS) 6-0/280 Defensive Tackle        

THE EIGHTH MAN

RT: NATHAN BAZATA (#99, Senior, 6'2, 287 lbs., Howells-Dodge, Howells, NE)

If there’s a poster boy for an eight-man football recruit joining a Power 5 football program, developing into an All-American player and being drafted into the NFL, it’s unquestionably Chad Greenway. A quarterback/linebacker with zero FBS offers, Greenway was a 2-star recruit from a town of fewer than 500 people in eastern South Dakota. He was molded into a multi-year starter at linebacker, selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and played 11 seasons professionally before retiring as a two-time Pro Bowler in 2017. Needless to say, he was a gamble that worked out.

The first part of that song remains the same for Bazata. An eight-man football star from Howells, Nebraska, his only other offer was from South Dakota State. He signed with Iowa in 2013, redshirted his freshman season and was starting by his sophomore year. Despite suffering an ankle injury against Wisconsin in late October, his stats between the 2015-2016 campaigns were relatively similar: 42 tackles in 2015, 39 in 2016; five total tackles for loss in 2015, three in 2016; one pass deflection in 2015, three in 2016. 

The most telling stat about Bazata is his sack numbers. In 2015 he only recorded one unassisted sack and two assisted. In 2016 it was down to one unassisted sack and one assisted. That’s 3.5 total career sacks over 36 games, with 24 of those games being starts. In comparison, Jaleel Johnson recorded 12 sacks over a similar timeframe, and he was being held or double teamed every play in 2016.

In fairness, Jaleel recorded most of those sacks during his senior season and was an NFL Draft pick. Still, we’ve seen enough evidence to conclude that Bazata is more Dontari Poe than Aaron Donald. He serves as a reliable run stuffer whose contributions will be overshadowed by his counterparts. And that’s fine. He was held out this spring due to last year's ankle injury but should be 100% by fall camp. If he’s able to notch 40 tackles, a couple of sacks and hold the line of scrimmage to provide opportunities for Lattimore and whoever plays defensive end, that’s a successful senior season.

PRODIGY

LT: CEDRICK LATTIMORE (#90, Sophomore, 6'5, 295 lbs., East English Village, Redford, MI)

The Lattimore era is here. Once a 251-pound defensive end recruit, there was the suspicion that due to Iowa’s lack of depth at tackle, he’d make the switch to the interior. Sure enough, he immediately put on 30+ pounds and was one of the few true freshmen to play last season, coming off the bench when Jaleel Johnson needed a breather. In six games he recorded a tackle for loss, a forced fumble (seen above), and one unassisted sack.  

We’ve only seen glimpses of Lattimore but with the limited information available, there’s reason to be excited. First, he played as a true freshman. Kirk Ferentz has opened the door to more freshmen as of late but he’s still selective in who he affords playing time. Second, he bulked up immediately and is the largest tackle on the roster. Not only does he have the girth to be a run stuffer, he has the size to bat the ball down and disrupt the quarterback, something which Iowa desperately needs on the interior now that Jaleel has moved on. Guys like Cedrick Lattimore and AJ Epenesa are the future of Iowa’s defensive line and that should give pause to the rest of the Big Ten.

WHILE YOU WAIT FOR THE OTHERS

RT: JAKE HULETT (#88, Senior, 6'3, 289 lbs., Springville, Springville, IA)

Continuing Iowa’s tradition of eight-man football standouts, Hulett redshirted after walking on in 2013. He didn’t see any action in 2014, played sporadically in 2015 and suffered a preseason injury last year that prevented him from ever seeing the field. Considering he’s only seen action in nine games over three seasons and recorded zero statistics, his appearance on the spring depth chart might just be a courtesy. 

LT: BRADY REIFF (#91, Sophomore, 6'3, 260 lbs., Parkston, Parkston, SD)

Well, this is quite the development. A 2-star defensive end recruit with only one other FBS offer, who was originally listed as 6’4, 215 pounds, is now your #2 left defensive tackle. Sure, Reiff has bulked up to 260 pounds…but that still makes him 20 pounds lighter than the second lightest defensive tackles on the roster. And the second lightest are Dalles Jacobus and Garret Jansen, who weigh 280. Size withstanding, Reiff played in seven games last season, all of them blowouts. It’s difficult to believe he’s the #2 tackle if he heads into the fall at 260 pounds but considering his playing time last season, he could legitimately be Iowa’s next option off the bench. 

DANIEL GAFFEY (#77, Senior, 6'2, 285 lbs., Regina, Iowa City, IA)

GARRET JANSEN (#53, Sophomore, 6'2, 280 lbs., Pella, Pella, IA)

JAKE NEWBORG (#58, Sophomore, 6'3, 290 lbs., West Lyon, Inwood, IA)

DALLES JACOBUS (#66, RS Freshman, 6'0, 280 lbs., CR Kennedy, Palo, IA)

Past Reiff, defensive tackle is a mystery. In all honesty, if Hulett wasn’t listed as the backup right tackle, he’d be included in this group. Daniel Gaffey walked on in 2013 and has played in one game over three full seasons. Jake Newborg was a 3-star recruit with offers from ISU, Minnesota, and Northwestern that redshirted and switched to the offensive line in 2015. He moved back to the defensive side of the ball in 2016 but still didn’t see any action. Jacobus was a preferred walk-on that redshirted last season. Jansen is the only player who has seen steady action and the majority of it was on special teams. He played in 12 games last season, recording two solo tackles and one assisted. 

The lack of experience and depth at defensive tackle is cause for concern for the Hawkeyes. The good news is that they should have two steady starters in Bazata and Lattimore, the linebacker core is one of the best in the Big Ten and there are several exciting players at defensive end. The bad news is that the Big Ten Conference is a grind and that if they’re going to hold the middle of the line, a couple of guys will have to step up to give Bazata and Lattimore a rest.

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