Iowa is off this week, but when the Hawkeyes return to action next week, it looks as though Barrington Wade will be sliding into a starting role on the defense. A vacancy on the first team opened up with an injury to Nick Niemann, but the Hawkeyes may find ways to keep some other players in the defensive mix as well.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker addressed the position concern with the media on Wednesday, noting that Wade will likely be the player getting the starting nod. But Parker also made sure to include A.J. Epenesa in the defensive strategy moving forward. The vibe is Iowa knows Epenesa is a key player, but is going to continue to allow him to develop a little more in a relatively reduced role.
“If we played him more, would he be as productive? That’s the thing you’ve got to really watch out,” Parker said, according to the Associated Press. “I really think the way we’re handling the situation, and it worked out the first four weeks, is that 25, 26, reps a game has really been his potential to really make some big plays. Now, obviously, you want to keep on doing that and pushing them forward, and I think he will the more you go on in practice.”
Epenesa has recorded 13 tackles in the first four games Iowa has played this season. Wade has been listed as the backup to Niemann, while Epenesa has been listed as a backup at right end. So it seems keeping players at their listed position is the chosen path for Iowa’s defense for now.
Iowa returns to Big Ten play on October 6 against Minnesota.