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Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker is accustomed to his group playing some of the nation’s best defense. The Hawkeyes led the nation with 25 interceptions last season, finished third in takeaways with 30 and ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense (110.5).
Iowa surrendered just 19.2 points per game in 2021, which ranked 13th nationally. The Hawkeyes allowed 328.8 yards per game to rank No. 18 in total defense.
In 2020, Iowa led the nation, allowing just 4.3 yards per play. The Hawkeyes allowed just 16 points per game to rank No. 7 in scoring defense and surrendered just 313.8 yards per game to rank No. 12 in total defense. Iowa ranked ninth in pass efficiency defense and allowed just 107.6 rushing yards per game to rank 11th nationally.
In 2019, Iowa’s defense ranked inside the nation’s top 17 in scoring defense, first downs allowed, total defense, rushing defense, turnover margin, and pass efficiency defense. The Hawkeyes also topped the nation with 21 interceptions in the 2017 season and finished tied-second nationally in 2018 with 20.
The Hawkeyes’ 89 interceptions over the past five seasons lead the nation. It’s an impressive list of players that have gone onto the NFL under Parker’s leadership as well.
How has Parker been able to consistently deliver some of the nation’s best defenses?
“I think what he gets out of his players. I think every player who plays on Phil Parker’s defense is committed to giving him 110 percent of everything that he has day in and day out, whether that be in practice, in the weight room or on the field, especially in the film room as well.
“You know coach Parker is going to give you everything that he has, so you have to repay that and give him everything that you got when you step across that line onto the field,” starting strong safety Kaevon Merriweather said.
Linebacker Jack Campbell led the nation with 143 tackles in 2021. The 6-foot-5, 246 pound native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, shared what he thought was the most impressive Parker trait.
“For me, it’s his mindset of how he approaches everything. I feel like all these guys would agree up here. I mean, you can make a really good play in practice, but he would expect better from you and tell you why this play could’ve been better, because, if you would’ve done this, you would’ve scored a second faster or something like that.
“So, he’s always pushing the limits of you being a great football player and that’s something that I just enjoy is being around a guy who’s always pushing the limits on things and never settling,” Campbell said.
For a defense that was one of the country’s best in 2021, the fact that the Hawkeyes have a defensive coordinator who won’t be satisfied with what the group accomplished last season and is ready to keep pushing the limits into 2022 is certainly a positive for Iowa.
Campbell and his teammates also have a leader who just digs what he’s doing.
“He’s just a guy who loves the game of football over everything and that’s like one of the most meaningful things to me is after a win, getting in the locker room and seeing a smile on his face and a handshake from him. You just really get a sense of the guy right there. He’s coached for over 20 years and all the great players he’s seen at the University of Iowa and the tradition right there. So, it just means a lot to me just to get to listen to his extensive knowledge and then to have that pour out on me and allow me to just go out there and perform it the way that our defense performs it, it’s pretty neat,” Campbell said.
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