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Tennessee Football: Five Iowa Hawkeyes to watch for against Vols in Citrus Bowl

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Did the Iowa Hawkeyes take the defense wins championship phrase a little too literally? They have a bottom five scoring offense and offense in yards, and they are down to a backup quarterback and without their top receiver. As a result, no player on that side of the ball will be key against Tennessee Football in the Citrus Bowl.

What about the other side of the ball, though? Iowa’s defense is top 10 in every important category. They win with defense and not turning it over. However, playing in the Big Ten west, they’ve faced atrocious offenses all year. Will UT be different as a top 20 offense? Who from the Hawkeyes determines how good they are? These are the five Iowa players to keep an eye on.

5. Tory Taylor, P

Before going to defense, we start with special teams. Cooper DeJean was a major weapon here as a returner, but he’s out, so we go to punter Tory Taylor, the man with the NCAA record in career punt yards. Iowa uses him a lot and uses him well. Josh Heupel and the Vols care little about field position, but Iowa needs it to have any chances, so Taylor will be huge.

4. Jay Higgins, LB

Although Nick Jackson is the playmaker at linebacker with eight tackles for a loss four sacks, four pass deflections and two forced fumbles, Jay Higgins is the leader of the unit. He has an incredible 155 tackles, 65 of which were solo, along with an interception, four pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble, and he does have a sack and four tackles for a loss, so the guy does it all.

3. Joe Evans

Edge rushers are a huge part of Iowa’s defense, just like Tennessee Football, and Deontae Craig and Ethan Hurkett deserve a shoutout here, but Joe Evans is the star. For the year, Evans has nine and a half tackles for a loss, five and a half sacks, four pass deflections, a forced fumble and 41 tackles, 23 of which were solo. He can also play off the line of scrimmage too, so he’s dangerous.

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2. Sebastian Castro

Defensive backs just play soft in Iowa’s system, so Quinn Schulte and Jemari Harris aren’t real factors. The cash position, the hybrid safety/linebacker, is more key, and Sebastian Castro has been a star there. He has three interceptions this season to go with eight tackles for a loss, a sack, eight pass deflections, a forced fumble, a defensive touchdown and 61 tackles, 41 of which were solo.

1. Yahya Black

Both Yahya Black and Logan Lee in the middle are the anchors at defensive tackle who set the tone for this supposedly elite 4-2-5 unit, and the Tennessee Football interior offensive line will be tested against them. Black is the bigger star with five tackles for a loss, three and a half sacks, five pass deflections, a forced fumble and 51 tackles, 22 of which were solo, but UT has to handle both to run the ball.

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