IOWA CITY — Cedrick Lattimore has grown his body and as Iowa prepares for today’s 7 p.m. spring game at Kinnick Stadium, the sophomore defensive tackle is working to grow his game.
Lattimore spent last season learning and watching as Jaleel Johnson played the best football of his collegiate career as a senior and Nathan Bazata continued growth in the heart of the Hawkeye defensive front as a second-year starter.
“Just to be around those guys last year taught me a lot about playing at this level,’’ Lattimore said. “Jaleel taught me to keep going, to keep pushing ahead because there is always another play to make. He was a great guy to learn from.’’
Lattimore said Johnson taught him a lot about the nuances of the position and the mindset it takes to be successful.
“He taught me how to compete, how to get off the ball the right way,’’ Lattimore said. “He brought a lot of toughness to the field every day. I’ve tried to do the same.’’
Lattimore has also bulked up, meeting his goal of packing 291 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame this spring after adjusting last fall to an inside spot on the defensive line after arriving at Iowa as an end from East English Village Prep in Detroit, the same high school which produced Desmond King.
He said talks with Johnson and with former Hawkeye and Detroit native Carl Davis, now playing for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, prepared him well.
“Both of those guys taught me how to see things the right way and put myself in a position to be ready when it was my time,’’ Lattimore said.
He saw playing time in six games a year ago as a true freshman, on the field for 90 snaps.
By comparison, Johnson saw around 600 snaps last season.
“It’s a different deal and I’m working to get ready to be out there are much as I’m needed,’’ Lattimore said.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker lists Lattimore among several Hawkeyes competing for time at the tackle positions who have made the most of Iowa’s spring practices that come to an end after tonight’s game.
Parker mentions Brady Reiff and Garret Jansen in addition to Lattimore as underclassmen who shown growth as defensive tackles this spring.
“I think we’re building depth there, so that’s going to help us more when we start getting into the season,’’ Parker said.
Lattimore has also spent this spring learning from teammates across the line.
Senior guard Sean Welsh praises the athletic ability he has seen in Lattimore, saying that he has a bright future as part of the Iowa defense.
“Iron sharpens iron. Any opportunity we get to help each other out,’’ Welsh said. “He’s a little inexperienced but he’s going to be a great player for us, help get him ready for when the bullets are flying, it’s good for us as a team. That’s the main thing.’’
Lattimore said he talks regularly with Welsh and center James Daniels, looking to gain as much knowledge as he can.
“We talk to each other before practices and say, ‘Let’s go, let’s get the tempo going, let’s get better today,’’’ Lattimore said. “Going up against guys like that every day, it’s making me a better player. Those guys are helping me get ready.’’