If you grew up in the mid to late 1990's there's a 99% possibility that your favorite baseball player was Ken Griffey Jr. A few diehards cheered for the likes of Barry Bonds or Frank Thomas, but it was Griffey who captured the heart of America with his swing, terrific fielding ability, and his infectious smile. Oh, and if you say your favorite baseball player in the 90's was Cal Ripken I will fight you because you're a liar.
Griffey was, and still is, my favorite baseball player. So in the 1990's I was a huge Mariners fan. Cora, Martinez(s), A-Rod, Buhner, Wilson. Those guys were good. Those teams were fun. And who could forget The Big Unit, Randy Johnson? A 6'10, first ballot Hall of Famer, Johnson was one of the most dominant starters I'd ever seen pitch. Accomplishments include a no-hitter, a perfect game, five Cy-Youngs and the murder of an unsuspecting bird who was just trying to enjoy spring training.
As a tribute to Johnson (and his nickname), The Big Units will profile the most important unit matchups between Iowa and their opponent each week. Up first: Illinois State.
Offensive Tackles vs. Defensive Ends
Obviously, right? Illinois State returns both defensive ends in Teddy Corwin and David Perkins. Corwin, originally recruited as a tight end, stands an impressive 6'5, 260 and was named First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference last season. He bursts off the line, has quick hands, and long arms. If he's not intercepting a pass, something he did three times last season, he's at least getting in the quarterback's line of sight or swatting down the ball.
Perkins, a 4-star athlete who had offers from nearly every brand name program in the nation, originally committed to Ohio State and was slotted at linebacker. He ended up transferring to Illinois State where he was moved to "defensive end." Defensive end is in quotes because Perkins is often lined up as sort of an end-linebacker hybrid who speed rushes to the outside. While Perkins isn't the biggest guy at 6'2, 225, he's fast and has an impressive spin move in his arsenal.
Corwin's highlight tape from last season is below. He's #87. You can also see Perkins, #4, in a majority of the highlights. Notice how Perkins is often standing up on the edge? Also, note how successful Perkins and Corwin are when they're part of a stunt.
They match up with Boone Myers and Ike Boettger. It's irrelevant to talk about who would guard who, as Corwin and Perkins are constantly rotating from the left to right side of the line. We know their stories well. Neither have any starts, Myers is a walk-on and Boettger is a year removed from sometimes playing tight end. They'll have their hands full on Saturday against the size and speed of Perkins and Corwin.
Outside Linebackers vs. Running Backs
Marshaun Coprich's name has been mentioned a thousand times this offseason so we'll just stick to the basics. Last season, he rushed for 2,274 yards, 27 touchdowns, averaged 6.1 YPC and was named a First-Team All-American. He also sold an impressive quantity of marijuana to an undercover police officer, which apparently isn't a big deal in Normal. At 5'9, 205, Coprich is not a bruiser. When handed the ball he immediately looks for the outside edge and uses his speed to pick up yards.
That means, HOORAY, Iowa's outside linebackers will be tasked with containing him on the edge. You might still be suffering sleep paralysis and or night terrors from the exploits of Tevin Coleman, Melvin Gordon, and Jalen Hurd, who made Iowa's containment on the second level look foolish. James Conner was intentionally left off this list because his running style wasn't what we'd call "evasive."
Outside linebacker Ben Niemann chipped his teeth as a freshman, originally being recruited as a 6'3, 203lb athlete. These days Niemann weighs around 225 and has the speed necessary to contain the outside edge. While there's no guarantee that he won't struggle (he will), he seems better equipped than his predecessor. Speaking of Bo Bower, Cole Fisher will actually get the nod at weakside linebacker. Fisher, who checks in at 6'2, 236lb, spent his entire career on special teams prior to being named a starter. What we know is...nothing. He's never played linebacker for Iowa. All we know is that Iowa originally recruited him as a linebacker, he was a 3-star recruit and he's put on over 40 pounds since joining the Hawkeyes. Thanks, Coach Doyle!