July 28, 2008

Countdown to Camp: Position Battle #5

As we countdown to the start of fall camp for the Iowa Football team, HawkeyeReport.com takes a closer look at the top position battles set to take place before the home opener on August 30th at Kinnick Stadium.

We start our countdown with a look at the top five position battles with a stop at strong safety and a peek at the current depth chart.

SS: Lance Tillison (6-foot-2 and 213 pound sophomore)/Harold Dalton (6-foot-1 and 201 pound senior), Tyler Sash (6-foot-1 and 210 pound freshman)

The race is pretty tight between the three contenders heading into camp with the free safety position pretty securely locked down by Brett Greenwood.

A Look Back: Last year, Dalton started every game at strong safety and had 18 solo tackles to go with 31 assists. He also had five pass break-up's and one fumble recovery. Tillison had one solo tackle and one assist in his redshirt freshman season, playing primarily on special teams. Sash redshirted last season in his freshman year at Iowa.

A Look Ahead: It should be a pretty interesting battle to see who pairs up with Greenwood at the back end of Iowa's defense. Dalton emerged from the pack last fall and showed improvement during the season, but he has not proven to be a playmaker at the position at this point. Tillison has received some pretty strong reviews from teammates for his hard hitting attitude in practice, but he has to show more to Coach Phil Parker in terms of consistency in camp. Sash was a name that popped up quite a bit last year in the freshman class as someone to watch, but the Iowa coaches decided to redshirt him and stuck with that plan.

This past spring, Tillison and Sash received quite a bit of work at strong safety and Dalton's workload was limited and he did work a little at corner because the defensive backfield was thin at that position during drills.

A Prediction: Look for this battle to go on well into camp and finally be decided by late August. The safe bet is Dalton simply because he carries over experience and he is a senior, so he should be less prone to mistakes. But, it would not be a shock to see either Tillison or Sash earn the starting spot in the fall. They both appear to bit more dynamic athletically and might be a better pairing with Greenwood, long term.

A Wildcard: While there are some talented true freshmen coming in this fall, it is unlikely that one of them jumps into the mix this year. But, the real wildcard could be Marcus Wilson, who is still attempting to re-join the Hawkeyes after a year away due to grades. At this point, Wilson has not cleared all of his hurdles academically, so his status for camp is still up in the air. But, if he does get a chance to wear the black and gold again this fall, he is a real contender to make things very interesting at strong safety.

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