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Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Spring breakout player: Iowa

By Adam Rittenberg

Spring practice is kicking off around the Big Ten, and we're taking a look at one potential breakout player for each team. We're spotlighting players who could take a major step during spring ball, so those who have started multiple seasons or earned All-Big Ten recognition in 2012 aren't eligible.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are up next, and they'll be looking for big things from ...

Darian Cooper, DT, sophomore, 6-foot-2, 280 pounds

Iowa's defensive line didn't have a banner season in 2012, but those searching for bright spots saw some from Cooper. Although he didn't start until the season finale against Nebraska, Cooper improved as the fall went along and made solid contributions in a reserve role. He finished the season with 34 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, to go along with a fumble recovery, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry. Cooper recorded 25 tackles and three tackles for loss in Big Ten play, turning in several of his better performances during November.

Consistency will be the key for Cooper this spring after he couldn't crack the starting lineup for most of his redshirt freshman season. Iowa loses two starters along the defensive line -- Joe Gaglione and Steve Bigach -- so there are opportunities for Cooper, both at tackle and potentially at end. He's a bit of a tweener and needs to show more pass-rushing skills, but he has a good speed-size combination and could help on the edges. Expect the talented Cooper to take another step this spring as Iowa looks for difference-makers up front to complement a productive crew of linebackers this coming season.