Ballard Stays Grounded Amid Hype

March 28, 2010

Iowa Football Practice Photos (Saturday, March 27) | Video interview with C. Ballard

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Christian Ballard hears what is being said about the University of Iowa defensive front four. The flattering remarks are all the more reason to work harder, rather than relax, knowing that you are among the best position groups in the land.

“It’s a lot of pressure when you hear your name as one of the best in the country,” said Ballard, after the Hawkeyes completed their third spring practice of the season Saturday. “We just try to get better every day, push each other to be the best. It’s nice to hear your name up there, but the challenge is to stay up there and we have a group of guys who are pretty grounded.”

Ballard, formerly an end who moved inside to tackle last season, is one of three returning senior starters on the defensive front line. He is joined by ends Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns and tackle Karl Klug. Binns, a junior who is a fourth returning starter in the group, is the “youngster” of the four.

Last season the Hawkeyes finished fourth among all NCAA Division I teams in pass defense, allowing 152.92 yards per game. Iowa was eighth in scoring defense (15.38 points per game) and 10th in total defense (276.54 yards per game). The combination of Ballard, Binns, Clayborn and Klug provided 252 tackles, 52 tackles for loss and 27 quarterback sacks.

Iowa’s 2010 schedule features seven teams returning with at least seven victories. The season-opener is Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois, a team that advanced to the Football Championship Series playoffs.

“We know we have a tough season ahead of us,” Ballard said. “We play a lot of tough opponents with good offensive lines, so it’s going to be a challenge.”

Saturday marked the first practice in full pads for Ballard and the rest of the Hawkeyes. They worked out in Kinnick Stadium, in view of hundreds of high school coaches who attended the annual two-day clinic.

“Whenever we’re in Kinnick it’s a special thing,” Ballard said. “It probably brought a little bit more momentum into practice today. The atmosphere was good and people were having fun.”

At 6-foot-5, 297 pounds, Ballard is the largest of the Hawkeyes on the defensive front. The 15 practices in the spring is a time from the native of Lawrence, Kan., to work on consistency, tempo, technique and leadership.

“I want to make sure I can perfect what I have been doing the past few years and make sure I get the fundamentals down,” Ballard said.

Working their way up the depth chart for playing time are several impressive candidates, including junior Mike Daniels (tackle), sophomore Steve Bigach (tackle) and junior Lebron Daniel (end), to name a few.

“Some of these younger guys are getting into it,” Ballard said. “You just have to keep working with them. They’re all athletic and they all want to be here.”

Iowa will hold a practice open to the public Saturday, April 17, at 1:05 p.m. The Hawkeyes are coming off a season when they won 11 of 13 games, including a 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl.