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First-stringers solid, but Iowa’s secondary depth an unknown commodity

[ 0 ] June 18, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The questions about John Lowdermilk have subsided.

Now, Iowa football fans are wondering who will be his backup at strong safety.

“I just feel like I have to help the next guys in line,” Lowdermilk said Wednesday. “Help bring them along.”

The Hawkeyes’ secondary took a hit last week when senior Nico Law announced he was transferring. The decision came after Law was arrested for disorderly conduct and leaves Iowa a little thin at defensive back.

“Depth is a concern every year at several positions,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It was a concern to me in the spring about our safety position, regardless.

“So that really hasn’t changed.”

John Lowdermilk, foreground, and  Desmond King, in air, look like solid first-string options for Iowa this season in the secondary. The real questions are in depth. (HawkCentral file photo)

John Lowdermilk, foreground, and Desmond King, in air, look like solid first-string options for Iowa this season in the secondary. The real questions are in depth. (HawkCentral file photo)

The first-stringers look solid:

— Maurice Fleming and Sean Draper are competing for the left cornerback spot, with a combined 17 games of experience.

— Desmond King (44 solo tackles and eight pass breakups last season as a true freshman) is a returning starter at right cornerback.

— Jordan Lomax is moving from cornerback to free safety after missing four games last fall with a hamstring injury.

— Lowdermilk made his starting debut in the 2013 season opener against Northern Illinois and went on to record 88 tackles in 13 games.

The 6-foot-2, 207-pound senior from Carrollton, Ohio, also intercepted a pass during the Hawkeyes’ 21-14 Outback Bowl loss to Louisiana State.

“He could probably play free (safety) as well, if we got in a pinch,” Ferentz said of Lowdermilk. “We weren’t sure if he would be an outside backer or a safety, so I think (strong) is probably his best slot.”

Law, who had 44 career tackles, was listed behind Lowdermilk on Iowa’s two-deep roster. His departure will add intrigue to summer workouts.

“We’ll be open to anybody,” Ferentz said, “especially the newcomers, the incoming guys.

“We recruited a lot of DBs, so I think there is some position flexibility. Realistically, defensively, there is an opportunity for some guys to play as true freshmen.”

The Hawkeyes are expected to bring in five freshmen defensive backs, but Lowdermilk offered encouraging comments about some players who are already on campus.

“Kevin Ward has come along really well,” Lowdermilk said. “Obviously, Lomax. I think he can play either safety spot. Honestly, he’s a really smart kid.”

Ward redshirted last fall after arriving in Iowa as a walk-on. Anthony Gair, a sophomore reserve, was also mentioned.

“We’ve got to get that corner position settled,” Ferentz said of Fleming and Draper, “but we’ve got to bring our twos along, fast, at the safety positions.”

Until they get up to speed, Lowdermilk will have to carry more of the load. Does he feel any added pressure?

“I just feel responsible for helping the younger guys,” he said, “like (former Iowa players) Tommy Donatell and Micah Hyde really helped bring be along.

“I kind of feel like it’s my duty to help them pick up the defense, and the little things.”

Lowdermilk was a key reason Iowa’s secondary improved throughout 2013. He can help the unit maintain that momentum in 2014.

“I’d say communication is the big thing,” Lowdermilk explained. “It’s really easy, if one side is doing one thing and the other side is doing another, to give up a big play or a touchdown.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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