The Iowa football team made adjustments in the second half Saturday that allowed AJ Epenesa to break free and earn B1G Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Heading into 2019, junior defensive end AJ Epenesa was considered a lock for the top-10 of the 2020 NFL Draft, and expectations were sky high from Iowa football fans everywhere. After a relatively slow start with limited statistical production (the advanced analytics painted a real nice picture of Epenesa’s performances), the Hawkeye legacy broke out against previously top-10 ranked Minnesota to claim this week’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Award.
Interestingly enough though, all of Epenesa’s production came in the second half, and one could point to the adjustment that the Iowa football team made as a big part of this.
Typically, the Iowa football team doesn’t move people around too much on the defensive side. Phil Parker has a tried and true defense that is great at limiting the effectiveness of any offense even as he has to plug and play guys due to injuries.
This is mostly the same mantra for the defensive line where AJ Epenesa mostly lines up as a defensive end on the right side. While I am not going to argue against defensive logic that has the Hawks ranked inside the top-20 in most statistical categories, the results were pretty obvious that moving Epenesa around could create havoc.
His first sack came on a traditional 1 on 1 matchup with the left tackle. His second sack came on a traditional 1 on 1 matchup, but the Iowa football team dropped Joe Evans in a spy which forced Tanner Morgan to stay in the pocket allowing Epenesa to get to him for a half-sack.
The final sack, the one the knocked out Tanner Morgan though, was a sign of what could happen if the Iowa football team moved Epenesa around a bit. With Epenesa lined up as a defensive tackle, he blew past the interior offensive line to take down Minnesota’s starting quarterback.
With 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in the biggest win of the year for the Iowa football team, Epenesa rightfully earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. With matchups against slightly weaker opponents Illinois and Nebraska on the horizon, hopefully, the Hawks take into account the success of a few of these second-half adjustments to free up Epenesa going forward.