No. 17 IU football will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on No. 18 Iowa this Saturday, and it will do so with new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren, who is anxious to see how the team’s defense will play in its first game under his stewardship.
“As any coach you’re eager to see them go out there with live bullets, and everything counts,” Warren said in a press conference Monday.
Iowa junior quarterback Spencer Petras threw four touchdown passes and five interceptions in Iowa’s first six games in 2020, but he also threw five touchdowns and no interceptions in the team’s last two games against Illinois and Wisconsin. Warren said Petras will be better in his second year with greater understanding of the Hawkeyes’ system.
The Hawkeyes ranked second in the Big Ten in points per game in 2020 with 31.4. However, they have production to replace after losing five offensive starters in the offseason. 2020-starting left tackle Alaric Jackson, guard Cole Banwart and tackle Mark Kallenberger are no longer with the team.
To make matters worse for the Hawkeyes’ offensive line, senior guard Kyler Schott broke his right foot baling hay on his family’s farm. Schott was listed as the team’s starting right guard following spring practice.
Beyond the offensive line, the team’s two leading wide receivers in 2020, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith, both left the Hawkeyes for the NFL this offseason. The team’s leading receiver in 2020, junior tight end Sam LaPorta, will start for Iowa Saturday.
Junior running back Tyler Goodson led Iowa with 762 rushing yards in 2020. He also recorded 124 yards receiving.
Warren said the Hawkeyes utilize their tight ends and running backs well in multiple personnel packages while trying to break a defense’s will, but he believes IU understands that challenge.
“You’re going to have to play some big boy ball,” Warren said.
IU’s defensive line lost some of its depth following the 2020 season, but went to the transfer portal to add graduate student Ryder Anderson, who helped defeat IU in last season’s Outback Bowl with the University of Mississippi. The Hoosiers also added junior Jaren Handy from Auburn University, a cousin of senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle.
Warren praised defensive line coach Kevin Peoples’ work with the line as a whole, particularly with coming off of the ball, technique, fundamentals and mindset against a team like Iowa, which won six straight games to end its season in 2020.
The Hoosiers’ defensive line will need to overcome Iowa junior center Tyler Linderbaum, a Rimington trophy finalist last season and preseason first-team All-American by Phil Steele. Warren described Linderbaum as the anchor of Iowa’s offensive line.
One of the main focuses of IU’s defense is takeaways, Warren said. The Hoosiers, who led the Big Ten in interceptions last season with 17, return every member of its secondary except for safety Jamar Johnson.
“The ball’s gotta be taken away from that team — they’re not going to give it away to us,” Warren said.
Junior cornerback Tiawan Mullen said getting takeaways is all about making the plays when they come your way and not stepping on the toes of fellow defensive backs.
“It’s all about doing your job, you know — not trying to be Superman on the field,” Mullen said.
IU will face Iowa at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. The game will air on Big Ten Network on T.V. and over the radio and online on WIUX.