Iowa's defensive tackle depth took a hit today when we learned that Darian Cooper has been ruled out for the entire season. According to reports, Cooper underwent season-ending knee surgery yesterday and while the surgery was a success (per Cooper himself), he'll be out for the entire 2014 campaign. Cooper redshirted in 2011, so he'll also lose a year of eligibility this year, leaving him just one year remaining as a senior in 2015. Best of luck to Cooper as he rehabs from this setback; hopefully we'll see him pushing aside offensive linemen next fall.
Cooper's injury also looks like it could be a pretty significant blow to Iowa's depth at defensive tackle. Cooper wasn't a starter last season (nor was he slated to be one this year) or a star player (yet), but he was an under-the-radar key contributor and the kind of player that all good teams have. He saw action in all 13 games last season, accumulating 18 tackles (8 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and a sack (against Iowa State). He saw even more action in 2012, notching 34 tackles (16 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery. As Pat noted in Assume the Position, Cooper was likely positioned as next man in if something happened to either of the starters at tackle, Carl Davis or Louis Trinca-Pasat, and he was going to see time no matter what, simply because Davis and LTP can't play every single defensive snap of a game.
In Cooper's absence, sophomore Faith Ekakitie looks likely to take on "next man in" duties; he was listed behind Davis on the depth chart released last Friday. Fellow sophomore Jaleel Johnson and redshirt freshman Nathan Bazata (listed behind LTP on the depth chart) will also be in line to see the field when Davis or LTP needs a breather. Johnson and Ekakitie have strong recruiting pedigrees (they were both 4* recruits, per Rivals, and easily two of the best gets in Iowa's 2012 class), but they haven't been able to translate that to on-field production yet. Part of that was a lack of opportunities -- with Davis, LTP, and Cooper ahead of them, there simply weren't many chances to get on the field. That shouldn't be the case now -- Cooper's absence will free up snaps for someone. Let's hope that whoever it is that takes those snaps is able to make the most of them. And we'll also continue to hope for good health for Davis and LTP because Iowa's DT situation could look very anxiety-inducing if something happens to one of them.