IOWA CITY — Reese’s pieces have come together just the way the Iowa defensive line coach envisioned.
An eight-player rotation is working for the Hawkeyes’ defensive front four, keeping fresh bodies and fresh minds on the field as Iowa works toward the homestretch of the regular season.
That was the goal Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan had in mind in a rotation that has grown from six to eight players this season.
“I feel like all of us make one team,’’ defensive end Chauncey Golston said. “No one piece is better than the sum of the parts. So, you just do your part and we’ll get better as a team.’’
Defensive tackle Sam Brincks sees that, as well.
“The rotation is making a difference for us. It’s keeping everybody on top of their game and I think we’re working well as a team,’’ Brincks said.
The rotation has taken a few different forms as the Hawkeyes work toward Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium against Northwestern.
At times, the change has been wholesale with four linemen coming into the game at the same time.
On other occasions, change has been more piecemeal with one or two players taking the field at a given time during a drive based on down or distance.
When circumstances warrant, the Hawkeyes have shifted an end into a tackle’s spot to add additional quickness and create additional pass rush opportunities.
Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse at the end positions and Matt Nelson and Brincks at the tackle spots have started every game during Iowa’s 6-3 start to the season.
Golston and A.J. Epenesa rotate in at the defensive end spots while Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff fill second-team roles at defensive tackle.
“We have enough players that we can rotate and keep everybody fresh and keep them productive,’’ Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said.
It’s a rotation that is working.
Collectively, the eight players account for 23 of the 26 sacks Iowa has recorded this season and they have been responsible for 35 of the Hawkeyes’ 47 tackles for a loss.
Epenesa leads Iowa in both categories, counting seven sacks among his nine tackles for a loss in addition to leading the team with six quarterback hurries.
Anthony Nelson and Hesse each have eight tackles for a loss and are second and third on the team in sacks with seven and 6.5, respectively.
The results of their work have helped Iowa rank fifth among the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in defending the run, eighth in total defense and 14th in scoring defense, where the Hawkeyes are surrendering 18.6 points per game.