Lose a star, gain a constellation.
With cornerback Micah Hyde now playing for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, the Iowa secondary is seeking strength in numbers.
“What we’re trying to build is not only the first-team guys, we’re trying to build the next four guys (and) the next four,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “I think we have a great group, and they’re well attentioned to what they’re doing.”
Hyde, the Big Ten Conference’s defensive back of the year in 2012, finished his Hawkeye career with 240 tackles and eight interceptions.
His departure leaves Parker with three returning starters and several promising prospects.
“We’ve made big strides these first two weeks of camp,” senior safety Tanner Miller said after Saturday’s open practice at Kinnick Stadium. “Just little details that maybe in the past we struggled with.”
Parker is back in charge of the Hawkeye secondary, and he’s making footwork and fundamentals a focus.
“We’re light years in front of where we were at this time last year,” Miller said. “We’re just going to keep building on it.”
B.J. Lowery (5-11, 188, sr.) started nine games last fall, recording a career-best nine tackles against Nebraska.
“Ever since the springtime I’ve thought he’s been really practicing well,” Parker said. “He (was) probably a little banged up from last year, when he had some nicks and bruises.
“I think he’s really developed, and developed as a leader. And that’s what we need back there.”
Backing up Lowery at left cornerback is Maurice Fleming (6-0, 188, fr.), who redshirted last fall.
“As he gets more comfortable at his position I think he’s definitely going to contribute this year,” Parker said. “No question about that.”
Experience could also be a factor at right cornerback, where Jordan Lomax (5-10, 190, soph.) hopes to make his starting debut.
He sat out last season after suffering a shoulder injury in the spring.
“Very smart kid,” Parker said. “The year before, when he didn’t play, he really learned a lot from just watching.
“So I’m excited to see how he progresses.”
Desmond King (5-11, 185, fr.) and Sean Draper (6-0, 180, soph.) continue to improve and could provide depth.
King, who grew up in Detroit, set a Michigan high school record with 29 career interceptions.
“They’re stronger from the offseason program and the summer,” Parker said. “We’re excited to see what they do.”
The strong safety position will feature John Lowdermilk (6-2, 203, jr.), Nico Law (6-1, 195, jr.) or Ruben Lile (6-3, 210, fr.).
“All three will compete at that position,” Parker said when summer camp opened. “Right now, I would say (Lowdermilk) is a little bit ahead, but it’s very competitive.”
Lowdermilk has appeared in 22 games, but Law made four starts in 2012.
Law has shown a knack for punishing hits, but was held out of spring drills with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s been practicing hard,” Parker said of Law. “So I’m really looking for a lot of positive things. We’ve just got to keep him healthy.”
Tanner Miller (6-2, 201, sr.) continues to hold down the free safety spot, having started 23 straight games.
He was second among Iowa defensive backs last season with 69 tackles, trailing Hyde’s 78.
“(Miller) has been around the system,” Parker said. “He’s experienced. He’s getting a better feel for the game, just to be able to read his keys faster.”
Miller made three interceptions in 2011, including a team-matching record 98-yard touchdown return against Northwestern.
Anthony Gair (6-2, 200, fr.) was a four-year letter winner for his Plano, Texas, high school, finishing his senior year with 122 tackles.
He was a state track champion in the 400 meters.
“He’s learning,” Parker said of Gair. “He doesn’t know the system totally, obviously. We’re encouraged the way he’s making progress.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football