Gameday: Clayborn anchors crushing Iowa D-line

Colin Becht

With the success of former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the ability of a defensive lineman to take over a game has been reestablished.

This year, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn has looked to provide further proof.

“Every summer, coach gives us a packet to fill out and watch film on these guys, so he gave us Suh this year,” Clayborn said. “Watching those guys play, it really shows you how much work you have to put in because they’re taking on these double teams.”

Though Suh is a defensive tackle while Clayborn plays defensive end, both have proved a menace to offensive linemen and quarterbacks alike.

“He’s a real big guy, he’s basically the size of a defensive tackle, but he’s playing end,” junior offensive tackle Al Netter said. “He’s one of the quickest guys on the defensive line in the Big Ten. That’s what he does best. He’s very explosive and he’s very powerful, and he moves very quickly side-to-side.”

Netter will have the unfortunate task of trying to contain Clayborn, listed at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, in the Wildcats’ matchup with the Hawkeyes this weekend.

“He’s one of the league’s best and one of the country’s best, so really just in practice you need to focus on finishing,” Netter said. “There’s got to be an extra sense of urgency with everything you do, just really giving that extra effort on every single play in practice so that in the game you can do it as well.”

Though Netter has already had to handle some of the Big Ten’s elite pass rushers, including conference sack leader Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, he said Clayborn may possess something more.

“What makes Clayborn so special is just the fact that he can move so well with how big he is,” Netter said. “There’s other guys that have the same strength as him, but it’s just he has the size and the power to back it up.”

After being named first team All-Big Ten last season and winning Most Valuable Player in Iowa’s 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Clayborn said he hasn’t let any complacency set in.

“Once you settle for something, then you’re not going to reach your goals,” Clayborn said. “If you want to do your best, then you’ve got to prepare the best.”

While Clayborn seems unlikely to match his 11 sacks from a year ago, his three Big Ten sacks do place him in a tie for 10th best in the conference. He also has a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald said he’s taken notice of Clayborn’s success, calling him “the full package.”

“He’s very physical, he’s got great size,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s got great quickness, great hands, technically very, very sound. When he wants to come up the field, he’s got a great swim move.”

Though Clayborn undoubtedly possesses tremendous natural talent, he attributes his accomplishments to the work he’s done with his fellow defensive linemen.

“We always compete out there in practice,” Clayborn said. “This summer, we competed like crazy in (strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle’s drills, just trying to be the best, trying to outwork each other. That’s what pushes me.”

The talent level is high across the Hawkeyes’ defensive line. Teammate Mike Daniels is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with four sacks and is fifth in the conference in tackles for a loss. All four starters also started last year.

“We learned what each other likes,” Clayborn said. “I know with (defensive tackle) Karl (Klug) what he’s comfortable with, and he knows what I’m comfortable with.”

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