This year’s Iowa defense should be stout and up to any task thrown at them this season. And another solid year on the gridiron would send out long-time Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker out in style.
Now there is no official word that Parker is done after this year. It was tweeted a few weeks back, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he hadn’t heard anything about it.
It makes sense. Norm is getting up there. He has had some health issues in the past. And this year’s Iowa team’s success could make the decision easier. Then again, big success could give Parker another reason to come back and try again.
“I’d feel good if I could this cast off my foot,” Parker said. “I don’t have any intentions of retiring or any of that. I heard that was a roar, but there was no truth to that.”
Whether or not Parker does return, one thing is certain, this year’s defensive unit has the chance to be his best ever.
“We’re going to take it week by week,” Iowa junior safety Tyler Sash said about just being better than last year’s unit. “I would like to be better, obviously that would be the goal. We want to come out and play the best football we can each week and see what happens after that.”
Sash and fellow safety Brett Greenwood will lead the back end of the defense this year. But the most talked about unit should be the four big fellas up front. Some have even referred to ends Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns and tackles Karl Klug and Christian Balard as the best defensive line in the nation.
They are without argument or doubt, the top defensive line in the Big Ten Conference.
“Coming to camp, when you hear all of those accolades and people trying to say this and that about us, it doesn’t really matter because the fact is that we still have some tough games ahead of us,” Ballard said. “All those games can be wins or losses. Just because so-and-so said that doesn’t mean that we can just go out and win a game and dominate the offensive line.”
Ballard’s approach, like most of his teammates, mirrors what Ferentz has been about during his long tenure at Iowa. The Hawks just don’t like to get into the hype.
Ferentz does have a lot of admiration for Clayborn, who could have passed up his senior year for millions of dollars in the National Football League.
“He is one of the top players in the country,” Ferentz said. “So with him being here and returning, that makes us a better football team. He makes everyone around him better, and he does goods things away from the building. That is pretty powerful stuff.”
So did the decision by Clayborn, who had 11.5 sacks last year and was MVP of the Orange Bowl, to stay in school surprise him?
“It was a lot quicker and easier thatn I thought it might be,” Ferentz said. “There really wasn’t a discussion about it, which was fine by me.”
The Iowa defense last year was one of the best in the nation. The Hawks were eighth in the country in points allowed and points allowed per game (15.4). They were 10th in yards allowed per game at 276.5 and also were fourth in passing yards allowed at 152.9.
Sash also had six interceptions for a nation-best 203 return yards. His partner in crime, Greenwood, had three picks.
Those numbers will set the bar high this year, and if members of that unit back this year want to be better, it sets the bar even higher.
And as far as Parker hanging it up after this season?
“Probably the only two ways I’ll leave is if they carry me out or Kirk will fire me, one of the two,” the 68-year-old Parker said.