New year, same dominance: How Phil Parker has consistently made Iowa one of the best defenses

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Statistically, the Iowa Hawkeyes defense has been one of the best units in the nation the last several seasons. After two tough early games in which the Hawkeyes defense struggled, they are now back to dominating opposing offenses.

“We had no spring ball so you really couldn’t tell about all the kids that you had or how they could have developed into where they’re at now,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “The last three weeks I would say this: Our kids have been practicing really hard. Every kid is really into it. It’s nice going to meetings. You can see the development, understanding the game of football. Really pleased the way they’ve developed into playing consistent football.”

Defensive back has been a strong point for the Hawkeyes, and although there is a lot of new starters, that is still the case this season. Parker has been impressed with the group’s development.

“We’ve tried to eliminate the explosive plays,” Parker said. “We probably don’t have many explosive plays that we’ve been giving up, but we have been giving up some big chunks at a time and I think we’re trying to narrow that down, which I think guys are doing well. I think Merriweather has done a good job at safety along with Belton. But then Jack Koerner is a guy who keeps on developing, keeps on improving every week. He’s taking more of a command back there. That’s what you need back there as a safety. And then obviously Matt Hankins, really up and beyond what I thought he would be at this time. He has been such a great leader.”

“The more time you spend here, the more time you spend under coach Parker as a DB, I think the more time you get adjusted to it,” Merriweather said. “It is not as difficult as it seems but if definitely helps in everything that he says. Preaching your landmarks, preaching your dividers, preaching where you need to be at. It definitely helps on the field you can see it with the interceptions.”

Defensive line is another group with a lot of new starters this season but the last two weeks the group has shown a ton of upside and progress.

“Oh man, we give all the credit to our defensive front, they get a tremendous rush, every single play, every single snap you see that in every down,” Merriweather said. ‘They are rushing the quarterback, making the quarterback have to rush their throws, they are making them have to scramble out of the pocket and making bad throws which helps us out in the back end as well.”

Iowa looks to continue its dominating defensive stretch as they take on Penn State on Saturday.

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