IOWA CITY — When Iowa held the last of its 15 spring football practices Saturday, Dominic Alvis was in the same situation he found himself in on March 24 when the Hawkeyes held their first workout.
He was watching, still working his way back from the ACL injury that has sidelined the junior defensive lineman since he suffered the tear during Iowa’s game against Michigan on Nov. 5.
Alvis is on schedule to return to the practice field in June and is more than eager for his career to resume in September.
The past months have proven challenging for a player who arrived at Iowa as a grayshirt recruit, initially paying his own way and working out on his own as a first-semester freshman before joining the program the following spring.
“The hardest part was not being able to help the team in the last few weeks of the season. I was there every day, going to meetings, that type of thing, but to not be able to be on the field, it was tough,” Alvis said.
“I had worked my way up the depth chart, invested a lot into making it happen, and then to have that suddenly taken away is a tough deal. You never prepare for something like that.”
Alvis appreciates the value of spring practices as much as any Hawkeye.
It was last spring when he worked his way into the top spot on the depth chart at defensive tackle. He made his first career start in Iowa’s 2011 season opener against Tennessee Tech.
He moved to an end spot in the Hawkeyes’ win over Pittsburgh and remained at the position until suffering the knee injury. In between, he recorded 30 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
“I had been practicing at the end position pretty much my whole career except for that short little stint when I was a tackle,” Alvis said. “I think they moved me back more as a comfort thing. Things were more instinctive for me at end. I’ll play wherever they want me.”
Alvis’ injury, and offseason surgery that will keep Carl Davis off the field until June as well, have shortened the experience the Hawkeyes defensive line has had to work with this spring.
Four redshirt freshmen and two sophomores have joined seniors Steve Bigach, the lone returning starter, and Joe Gaglione in getting most of the reps on the practice field in recent weeks.
Alvis expects to return to the field as an improved player, the result of additional time he has spent in the weight room while he has been sidelined.
He said he has added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame.
“I’m trying to make the most of the time,” he said. “I’m doing things in the weight room now that I’ve never been able to do before. I think I’m becoming a better overall athlete, something I think will help me next fall.”
Alvis is ready for that to happen.
He welcomes the chance to compete against the young linemen who have received additional reps this spring in his absence and he likes what he sees from the teammates he expects to challenge for playing time once fall camp opens in August.
“Just because they are inexperienced, it doesn’t mean that we all can’t work together and become a dominating force,” Alvis said. “I’ve seen the energy they bring to the field. It’s exciting.”
That’s one reason he believes that many of the questions about a defensive line which lost three starters from its final game of 2011 has already been answered.
“People want to know who is going to step up and fill those shoes, but the energy and enthusiasm you see, you think those guys are ready. They may not be veterans, but they will scrap. They’ll battle and that gives us all a chance.”