The Iowa Hawkeyes have one of the top defensive tackle tandems in college football with seniors Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. However, the team’s depth along the defensive interior is now in question after junior Darian Cooper required season-ending surgery.
The exact nature of the injury has yet to be divulged, but Cooper announced he will miss the entire season on Facebook.
Cooper played in all 25 games the past two seasons as a backup defensive lineman. In 2013, Cooper recorded 18 tackles and a sack.
With Cooper out of the lineup, the Hawkeyes will have to rely heavily on sophomore Jaleel Johnson as the team’s third defensive tackle.
“Coop has got some good skills,” defensive line coach Reese Morgan told The Gazette’s Marc Morehouse prior to fall camp. “We would like to have some guys inside that have some girth that can stand up against the run.”
Cooper is listed at 282 pounds, while Johnson is 6-4 and 310 pounds. Redshirt freshman Nathan Bazata will likely serve as the Hawkeyes’ fourth defensive tackle with Cooper out of the lineup. But Bazata is much closer in size to Cooper than he is Johnson.
The team’s depth up front is crucial for Iowa’s defense. First, the ability to keep Davis and Trinca-Pasat fresh is important for both seniors to play at a high level. Plus, Iowa’s relies heavily on the play of its linebackers for the defensive scheme to work properly. If Johnson and Bazata can’t hold the point of attack and allow blockers to get to the linebackers, Iowa’s defense will be gashed when the backup defensive tackles are on the field.
Cooper was an important piece to the puzzle for the Hawkeyes this season. Unfortunately, his role now will be to recover, rehabilitate and prepare to replace either Davis or Trinca-Pasat as a starter next season.