IOWA CITY - Tyler Nielsen and Cody Hundertmark are a year older, a year wiser and a year closer to seeing the field on a regular basis as Iowa Hawkeye football players, defensive coordinator Norm Parker confirmed during the program's media day here on Monday.
Nielsen and Hundertmark, former state champion athletes and all-state gridiron classmates at Humboldt High School, took different paths as defensive rookies a season ago under Parker's tutelage. Nielsen, a 6-foot-4, 228-pound outside linebacker wearing No. 45, redshirted, working exclusively with the scout team. Hundertmark, a 6-4, 276-pound defensive end donning No. 64, appeared in six of the Hawkeyes' 12 games. After becoming one of just 11 true freshmen to see the field for head coach Kirk Ferentz last year, Hundertmark is now classified as a sophomore.
''I've said it before and I'll say it again - they're both going to be very, very good football players here for us,'' Parker stated emphatically. ''Sometimes kids go away for the summer, they report back (to preseason camp), and you just see both a physical and mental change. Nielsen and Hundertmark both made a lot of progress both during (the academic year) and in the summer. We're ready for them to take the next step as Hawkeyes.''
Nielsen is currently listed as a backup to rising junior A.J. Edds at OLB. He's competing with sophomore Dezman Moses as Edds' understudy.
Sophomores Jacody Coleman and Jeff Tarpinian are penciled in as the other two starters at linebacker.
''I'm excited to compete and try to break into the rotation,'' Nielsen said. ''I want to help the program any way I can. Last year, that was on the scout team. This season, it might be on special teams.
''I'm glad I have four years left. It was a hard decision to make (redshirting), but I knew it was for the best long-term. I made the necessary adjustments and just focused on constantly improving.''
Hundertmark, who said he has gained ''a good 20 or 25 pounds of muscle'' since arriving in Iowa City last summer, isn't currently on Iowa's depth chart. He finished the 2007 campaign as a second-string defensive tackle, behind all-Big Ten performer Mitch King.
''It was a great experience (playing as a true freshman) - you can't simulate game situations at this level,'' Hundertmark said. ''There's no way to prepare for something like that. You just do it and learn from it.
''I got my opportunity and made the most of it. That's what it will be about this year, too, when they call my number. I'll keep working hard and doing my best to get better.''
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org