IOWA CITY, Iowa -- At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, Carl Davis has the size to make an impact on the University of Iowa defensive line. Now in his third year in the program, his health and maturity are equally on par.
"Carl has a great opportunity," said UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker. "He's a big guy... it's hard to move and block him. Sitting out last spring helped him to pay attention and see it from a different perspective, and since then he has shown a lot of great improvement."
After redshirting in 2010, Davis was expected to take on a bigger role during the 2011 season, but injuries derailed his progress. He appeared in just six games, recording a pair of tackle assists, before missing the final six games because of injury.
Davis had knee surgery last January, which sidelined him during the Hawkeyes' 15 spring ball practices, but it wasn't a total wash.
"I took a lot of mental reps in spring ball," said Davis, a Detroit native. "I sat back once I got done with my rehab and tried to help the other guys. I tried to help their games get better and help me get better. I noticed how important it was to bring your back foot on the steps... it's the small things that make your game better."
First-year defensive line coach Reese Morgan saw Davis take on a larger mentoring role during the spring, and thinks it will pay dividends for him this season.
"I think Carl is going to be one of those good stories," said Morgan. "He had a good summer from what (strength coach) Chris (Doyle) told us. He wasn't able to get the reps, but was actively involved in mentoring and teaching our younger guys. When you know it so well you can teach it, you learn it better yourself."
With the defensive line depth chart featuring seven freshmen or sophomores, Davis says the group must play together to succeed.
"We want to be able to work together as a unit," he said. "It's not a one-man show. We run a bunch of stunts up front, so we're hoping to play well as a unit."
Morgan knows the Iowa defensive line will get a lot of attention for its lack of experience, but he feels Davis and company are up to the challenge.
"These guys are like Ralphie and the Christmas story... guys that everyone picks on," said Morgan. "At some point in time, they have to step up and say I've had enough and take on the bullies and get after it.
"They have really embraced the challenge and have come to work. They're developing a little bit of an edge. You have to play with that defensive mentality, and if our guys embrace it and support each other, hopefully that will transfer to the field."
Davis says the Hawkeye defensive linemen will leave everything they have out on the field.
"We're going to come out and play hard," he said. "That's the only thing we can do is give it our all. If we try our best, the only thing we can expect is good results. We're really starting to come together, and I think we're going to be a pretty decent unit."
The Hawkeyes open the 2012 season against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1 at Chicago's Soldier Field. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on ESPNU.
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The Hawkeye volleyball and soccer teams will hold their media day festivities on Tuesday... be sure to check hawkeyesports.com for the latest news on both programs.