IOWA CITY Iowa — Nathan Bazata’s job doesn’t seem to be much fun. Iowa asks him to take on double teams all game long.
But Matt Nelson is mesmerized by it. As the defensive end tries his hand at defensive tackle in camp, he finds himself re-watching film of Bazata taking on two offensive linemen.
“I’ve got to take a note out of Nathan Bazata’s playbook,” Nelson said. “He eats up double teams better than anyone we have.”
Bazata is Iowa’s expert on clogging up the middle of the field and tying things up on the line. With Nelson turning to him for advice, Land of 10 did the same to see how Bazata goes about his job.
“Got to stay as low as possible, and running your legs,” Bazata said. “That is pretty much what it is.”
It sounds simple, but the execution is anything but.
“It’s hard,” Bazata said. “Guys get turned. Guys don’t stay square to the line, and that is when you have problems and the linebackers get mad at you.”
The Hawkeyes turn to their defensive tackles to help control the line of scrimmage. Bazata, when taking on a double team, must hold his ground and help create clear tackling lanes for the linebackers and safeties. On most double teams, one of the offensive lineman, after making contact with him, releases off in search of another defender to block.
Bazata approaches each double team the same. He wants to come off the football and stay lower than the guard who will serve as the anchor of the double team.
“You have to get underneath his pads,” Bazata said.
The 6-foot-2, 287-pound Bazata is good at it, in part, because of his size.
“[Iowa defensive line coach Reese] Morgan jokes that he is naturally leveraged being a shorter guy,” Nelson said. “He plays real low.”
After securing leverage, Bazata looks to “cork his hips,” or sink and open them up a little to prepare for the offensive tackle coming to hit him next. This is when Bazata really starts thinking about his upper body.
“You keep your shoulders square,” Bazata said. “So they have to stay on you, and you don’t want to get pushed over the top.”
If his shoulders turn, the odds increase the offensive linemen will move him into the defensive backfield.
Bazata is impressed with Nelson’s play at defensive tackle. He’s quick to pass on advice. Usually it centers on the most important aspect of fighting off two blockers.
“He has good coaching points,” Nelson said. “He can help a guy and say, ‘Hey, try this, get your hips down, get a little more, torque your hip this way.’ He has been a great help so far.”