Dynamic duos have been a staple of Iowa football for years, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. In 2013 and 2014 Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat made a formidable pair at defensive tackle -- they combined for 186 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 10 QB hurries, and no small amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds were the beating heart of Iowa's defense in 2008 and 2009, combining for 388 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 12 interceptions, 17 passes broken up, 5 QB hurries, and 3 forced fumbles, and who knows how many key contributions that didn't get record in the official statistics. Those same defenses also featured a dynamite pair of safeties in Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood; from 2008 to 2010 they combined for 402 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 23 interceptions, 30 passes broken up, and a host of tremendous highlights.
There have been plenty of great defensive pairings before that as well -- Mitch King and Matt Kroul (our beloved "Kroul and Unusual Punishment") endured growing pains in 2005 before becoming the focal point of some stingy Iowa defenses in 2007 and 2008. Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson ably manned the perimeter of the Iowa secondary for years, rewriting the Iowa record books in the process. Jonathan Babineaux and Matt Roth provided the destructive force that powered so many of those early '00s defensive lines. And of course no discussion of dynamic defensive duos would be complete without a mention of Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway, one of the most enjoyable, effective, and productive linebacking tandems Iowa has ever seen.
But here's the thing... it's hard to locate that duo on the present Iowa defense. That has a lot to do with the youth and/or inexperience of several of the starters on this defense -- there are essentially six new full-time starters on defense this year. But while there may not be any standout duos that we can point to at the moment , there are a few duos on this defense that have the potential to be something special for Iowa.
DREW OTT AND NATE MEIER
There isn't much time left for this duo to cement themselves as a memorable duo on the Iowa defense, but the ability is there. If Iowa is going to have a good season, they're going to need to have a good defense -- and if they're going to have a good defense, they're going to need to have big seasons from Ott and Meier. Iowa's defensive line led from the inside out last year, with Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat wreaking havoc from the defensive tackle position. This year, it's going to have to lead from the outside in, with seniors Ott and Meier menacing quarterbacks and swallowing up running backs. Ott has shown us more glimpses of that capability than Meier -- most recently in his Week 1 terrormonster performance against Illinois State -- but Meier did a nice job of stepping up in Ott's absence in the second half against Iowa State last week. For both guys, the question is largely one of consistency -- can they bring those disruptive efforts to bear each and every week, especially when the competition gets stiffer? If so, there's a good chance that we'll look back favorably upon the Ott-Meier combo.
DESMOND KING AND GREG MABIN
In truth, this is my pick for the standout duo on the Iowa defense. These two have the potential to be one of the best cornerback duos that Iowa has ever had, at least under Ferentz. King is the more accomplished of the two -- he emerged as Iowa's best cornerback as a true freshman and has owned a spot in the lineup ever since. His stats won't blow you away yet -- just 4 interceptions and 14 passes defended -- but in part that's because quarterbacks have often just avoided his side of the field. For a cornerback, there's no greater honor than that. There's room for him to improve, but with the potential to play another 20-odd games in black and gold, he could be very, very good by the time his Iowa career wraps up. We could be saying the same about the cornerback on the opposite side of the field, too. Mabin came to Iowa as a wide receiver, then got switched to cornerback and has been improving by leaps and bounds ever since. Eyebrows were raised when he was named the starter last year and while he endured some rocky moments, the potential is immense -- Iowa has rarely had a corner with his physical gifts, and as his instincts catch up to those gifts, he should become a force in the secondary. Like King, he has another 20-odd games in black and gold ahead of him, so much of his story is still to be written.
JOSEY JEWELL AND BEN NIEMANN
This is the biggest stretch, I know. They're the youngest and least experienced duo on the list, as well as the one that's impressed the least. We had an up close view of their growing pains last year, which included some rough moments. But with another offseason of practice in their books -- and some positional re-jiggering that finally seems to have them playing where they can be most effective -- they're off to a better start this year (caveats about quality of competition apply, of course). And don't forget: they're both just sophomores -- the bulk of their Iowa careers are still ahead of them. They have a lot of room to grow, improve, and develop into defensive stalwarts. Let's remember that several of the defensive stars listed above weren't awesome out of the box as freshmen or sophomores, either. We could be seeing Jewell and Niemann in the middle of the Iowa defense for years to come -- and that could be a very good thing.
Alright, your turn -- who's going to be the next standout defensive duo for Iowa?