April 3, 2012
Spring Outlook: DB
Change has come to the Iowa secondary. The Hawkeye defensive backs have a new position coach and perhaps a new more aggressive approach coming this fall. The Hawkeyes return two starters, led by senior Micah Hyde,and will have several potentially exciting players including Nico Law, who is creating quite a buzz this spring.
Starters Lost: Jordan Berstine and Shaun Prater
Starters Returning: Tanner Miller and Micah Hyde
LC: B.J. Lowery (JR), Jordan Lomax (SO)
RC: Micah Hyde (SR), Greg Castillo (SR)
SS: Nico Law (SO), Tom Donatell (SR) or Colin Sleeper (SR)
FS: Tanner Miller (JR), John Lowdermilk (SO) or Jack Swanson (SR)
The Numbers: Tanner Miller: 76 tackles, 3 for loss, 3 interceptions, 3 pass breakups. Micah Hyde: 72 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups. Tom Donatell: 17 tackles, one for loss. Colin Sleeper: 14 tackles. Greg Castillo: 14 tackles, one pass breakup. B.J. Lowery: 11 tackles, three pass breakups. Nico Law: 11 tackles. Jordan Lomax: 7 tackles. John Lowdermilk: 3 tackles. Jack Swanson: 2 tackles.
The good news for the Iowa secondary is that two starters return for the 2012 season. Bad news, two starters are moving on. While the numbers in terms of scholarship players aren't huge, Coach Darrell Wilson seems to be pretty excited about the potential of this group.
Iowa's secondary is led by Micah Hyde, who is firmly back at cornerback this spring. Last year at this time the Hawkeye coaches were toying with the idea of moving Hyde to safety, which is where he started last season. That didn't last long and Iowa's secondary really settled down once Hyde moved back to corner and Jordan Bernstine was inserted into a starting spot at safety. One thing Hyde will need to do this fall is step into a larger leadership role on the field.
At the other corner, it appears that B.J. Lowery is the odds on favorite to start opposite Hyde. Lowery missed the early portion of last season with a broken wrist. Even though he wore the cast all season, Lowery played very well and was a fearless hitter in the secondary. Coach Wilson was pretty high on his potential when he spoke to the media last week, so look for good things from Lowery in his first year as a starter. Lowery will be backed up by sophomore Jordan Lomax, who saw the field in his freshman year primarily on special teams. He will push for playing time this fall and certainly factor in Iowa's nickel and dime coverage's.
At the safety positions, one spot seems settled with junior Tanner Miller holding down the fort at free safety. There is no question that Miller is there athletically. Last year as the season moved on, his first as a full time starter, Miller settled in and his instincts seem to take over on the field. If he continues his logical progression, the Iowa native should take another step in his development this season.
The other safety position is a bit more up for grabs this spring and will probably remain that way heading into fall camp. One thing appears to be out there, Nico Law's star is on the rise. Law arrived on campus last fall with plenty of hype thanks to his hard hitting style and social media prowess while still in high school. According to Coach Wilson, Law is backing up his hype with strong play this spring. At his press conference one week ago, Wilson spent a lot of time singing Law's praises and my sense is he could be that x factor that the Iowa defense needs this season.
Law will get a strong push from Tommy Donatell, who actually started at linebacker for a period of time last year, and Colin Sleeper, who was a starter at safety early last year.
Will Iowa play more press coverage?
For years Hawkeye fans have been driven crazy by Iowa playing ten yards off the line of scrimmage in the secondary. The only thing that has probably driven Iowa fans crazier is linebackers lining up on slot receivers (more on that in a second). Indications are that Phil Parker's defense will be clamping down a bit more in the secondary. While it might not be total press coverage, they are going to play things tighter on the corners. The other indication is that as long as players like Jordan Lomax develop to the level they believe he can reach, we will see more nickel coverage and defensive backs on slot receivers.
The larger question is how successful will it be? Time will tell on that front, but expect a more aggressive approach on the back end of the Hawkeye defense.
The Hawkeyes will welcome five new faces to the secondary this fall, which is much needed simply for depth purposes in future years. One thing we do know is that if there is one position where several true freshmen will be called upon, it's usually in the secondary and more than likely the primary role will be on special teams. Joining the Hawkeyes will be cornerbacks Kevin Buford and Reese Fleming, along with safety prospects Sean Draper, Anthony Gair, and Ruben Lile.
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