The NFL Draft has been historically good to Iowa Hawkeyes defensive linemen–so good, 12 of them played on Sunday’s this past NFL season. Veterans like Aaron Kampman, Jared DeVries, and Jonathan Babineaux have all had fantastic professional careers. More recently, Adrian Clayborn (Tampa Bay Bucs), Christian Ballard (Minnesota Vikings), and Karl Klug (Tennessee Titans) were all selected in last year’s NFL draft, leaving huge holes for Kirk Ferentz to fill this past season for Iowa. The inability to effectively fill those holes defensively was a big reason the Hawkeyes struggled, finishing with a 7-6 record.
Iowa fans and coaches hope prized recruits like Jaleel Johnson can help get things turned around.
It was clear the defensive line was the focus this spring as the Iowa coaching staff lured in two 4-star recruits from the state of Illinois: Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie. Johnson is a 6-3, 290 pound 4 star tackle who was called a “big interior plugger with good strength” by Scout.com. Rivals stated that Johnson reminded them of former Hawkeye and current Atlanta Falcon Jonathan Babineaux.
Johnson had 80 tackles and 3 sacks as a prep All-American senior. ESPN.com says Johnson “is a physical dude who seems to play like he is angry at the world.” Johnson may be angry at the world on the football field, but he was kind enough to give us some time to answer a few interview questions from our staff:
Tell us about the recruiting process and how long Iowa was looking at you?
This recruiting process was really fun and I really enjoyed it. Iowa has been looking at me for a long time which was a good thing for me.
Who were some of the other schools you were looking at and what made Iowa stand out?
The other school that I was looking at was Michigan State. The thing that stood out the most was the chemistry I had between the coaches. I felt like I had more of a connection with coaches from Iowa than the coaches from MSU. I just felt Iowa was the place for me because I felt really comfortable on the campus at Iowa.
Did any of the past Hawkeyes reach out to you and if so what did they say?
I have spoken to a few past Iowa Hawkeyes and they’ve been telling me to just make sure that I take everything into consideration when choosing a school.
What do you think of the recent promotion of Phil Parker to defensive coordinator?
I think Coach Parker being at the defensive coordinator position is exciting because from meeting him he seems like the kind of guy who I think will bring excitement to our defense. The same way coach Norm did so I’m really excited about that.
Do you and Faith or Reid communicate at all? (All being highly recruited defensive lineman from Illinois?)
I haven’t really spoken with Faith or Reid; I have only spoken to a couple other recruits. The main one being Maurice Fleming.
Have you selected a major yet?
I already thought about what field I would like to go into and that is criminal justice.
When will you be getting to campus?
The earliest I will be arriving on campus will be the weekend after the 4th of July. That is when I have to report to summer training.
Iowa fans hope Jaleel Johnson will become another Hawkeye legend on defense that gets his name called on draft day a few years from now. In the meantime, they hope that he, along with some other highly regarded recruits on the defensive side of the football, will help new Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker shore up a Hawkeye unit that has ranked in the top ten in scoring defense three times in the last four seasons, but ranked closer to #50 last season.
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