WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Brady Reiff is growing into his role on the Iowa defensive line, one full fork at a time.
The Hawkeye sophomore is adjusting to life as a defensive tackle, a position where Iowa is working to grow its depth in part by growing the 6-foot-3, 260-pound body of Reiff, who arrived at college as a defensive end after playing both end and linebacker in high school at Parkston, South Dakota.
“I’m working to put as much weight on as I can, but it has to be the right type of weight,’’ Reiff said. “The strength coaches set different goals for me that I work to meet and pretty much every meal, I’m leaving feeling pretty full.’’
Reiff is a bit undersized to play the heart of the Iowa defensive front, listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds.
That’s more than 25 pounds lighter than any other defensive tackle on the Iowa roster, but Reiff seems to be enjoying playing this game of catch up.
“The idea is to take in a lot of calories. I’m not really sure how many, I just eat what I’m told to eat,’’ Reiff said.
Iowa has played with undersized defensive tackles before.
Mitch King played that role into all-Big Ten honors in 2007 and 2008 and Hawkeye defensive line coach Reese Morgan sees similar potential.
“He’s a little bit undersized for a tackle, but you don’t measure a guy by his size,’’ Morgan said. “He’s very explosive. He’s productive. He’s disruptive. Hopefully, he’ll disrupt them more than he’ll disrupt us as he learns things, but I think he’s going provide a lot. He’s a guy to get excited about for a younger player.’’
Iowa is working to replace Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie at the tackle positions on its defensive front. With the two players currently on top of the depth chart at the position, Nathan Bazata and Cedrick Lattimore, absent from Friday’s practice at Valley Stadium, the younger brother of former Hawkeye all-Big Ten offensive lineman Riley Reiff took plenty of snaps with the first team.
Brady Reiff said the move from defensive end to tackle last year happened without much discussion.
“They just said ‘go in there and try that out’ so I did,’’ he said.
And once he tried it, he quickly grew to like the position.
Reiff likes being in the thick of things in the middle of the line, somewhat of a more action-filled opportunity compared to the end position he previously played.
“I like it. Things happen in there. You don’t have to think so much, you just play and that’s all good,’’ Reiff said. “There’s not as much space involved, but there is plenty of action and that’s the part of the game I enjoy.’’
That’s something Morgan saw in Reiff.
While Reiff lacks the experience of King or Karl Klug, both smaller players who thrived inside on the defensive front, Morgan sees some of the same traits in Reiff that allowed King and Klug to excel.
“Smaller guys inside who can move and do some things and we’re hoping that he can do that,’’ Morgan said.
Reiff is counting on making that happen.
“I’m learning every day and there are things I can do at my size to create some match-up problems for the guys across the line,’’ Reiff said. “But, I can see where some extra weight and strength will only help me and I’m working on that, too. We need tackles right now and I hope I can be part of the solution.’’