Iowa's spring game is Saturday, and while a lot of the focus will no doubt be on the offensive side -- with new starting quarterback C.J. Beathard, competition at running back, and who replaces Brandon Scherff at left tackle -- remember to pay particular attention to the interior defensive line.
The Hawkeyes lost two of their most productive players at defensive tackle. Carl Davis could get hear his name called in the first or second round of next week's NFL draft, while Louis Trinca-Pasat could be a late-round choice after a breakout senior season. Junior Jaleel Johnson is the most experienced player now at the position. But the group is mostly unproven at this point.
"We're all strong and we're all athletic enough to play at the Big Ten level," junior Faith Ekakitie told ESPN.com, "and we're all wiling to learn right now. That will be our edge -- that we’re willing to learn and get better as players."
Ekakitie is an intriguing player who recently has been seeing some reps with the No. 1 defense, along with sophomore Nathan Bazata. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder also has arguably the most interesting back story. Born in Nigeria, he moved with his family to Ontario, Canada, when he was 2.
He thought basketball was his ticket to college but figured he needed more exposure to American colleges. So he went to Lake Forest High School in Illinois, where he discovered by his sophomore year that his future was brighter in football. During his recruitment, he wrote an entertaining and informative blog that included detailed critiques of his campus visits and suitors.
"I felt like a lot of my time was being taken up by guys calling from the media, and eventually got a little tired of it," he said. "So I decided to put my thoughts out there in an organized way."
Writing out his thoughts helped him when he decided upon a school, Ekakitie said. Though Iowa is known for its writing program, Ekakitie -- a physiology major -- said the blog was probably a one-time thing and that he's not interested in recording his college career for the world to see.
An inside look at the defensive tackle competition, which also includes former Iowa Central Community College transfer Kyle Terlouw, would be a pretty interesting read. Especially given what the Hawkeyes are trying to replace.
"Our challenge is to not just match that production, but to succeed it," Ekakitie said. "I feel like it's not a job for just one player but that it will have to be a collective group effort."
Beathard's the man: Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis met with reporters on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he was asked a few times what went into the decision to elevate Beathard past two-year starter Jake Rudock after the TaxSlayer Bowl. Davis didn't offer a lot of specifics, but I thought this answer was interesting
"You have two good players," Davis said. "And we just felt like C.J. was at a point mentally, to the question of getting in and out of plays, that he had cut that gap down. We felt like physically that there was a bigger upside. And we're talking about a guy that's a really good player in Jake.
"We had to make a decision, and sometimes it's, 'What does your gut say?'"
Stable full of running backs: Fearful of arousing the slumbering AIRBHG, Davis knocked on a wood podium after saying that the Hawkeyes had the best quality depth at running back since he got to Iowa City. The surprise of the spring has been converted wide receiver Derrick Mitchell. Davis said Mitchell has been much better than expected at picking up blitzes and said that Mitchell could even serve as Iowa's third-down back this season because of his speed.
Linebackers, defensive ends look good: Defensive coordinator Phil Parker also met with reporters on Wednesday and was asked where the defense had made its most progress this spring. Parker said he liked the way the young linebacker group has played, with Bo Bower moving back inside and Ben Niemann showing well. Parker also had praise for the defensive ends, with Drew Ott and Boone Myers leading the way and sophomore Matt Nelson making strides.