Other Position Previews
IOWA CITY, Iowa - If Nico Law or somebody else can grab ahold of the strong safety position, this could be one of the best defensive backfields in the Kirk Ferentz Era. It also might be one of his deepest.
Senior Micah Hyde and Junior Tanner Miller, both of whom have a red-shirt year remaining, man a corner and the free safety, respectively. Hyde will be beginning his third year as a starter and Miller his second campaign.
Hyde earned second-team all-conference honors from Big Ten media members after last season. Earlier this month, he was added to the Nagurski Trophy Trophy (nation's top defensive player) watch list.
"Micah is kind of a quiet leader," Iowa Secondary Coach Darrell Wilson said in the spring. "He doesn't say much; leads by example. But the old commercial with E.F. Hutton, when he speaks, they listen."
Miller took some punches the last two seasons after being pushed by injuries into early duty. You also could see a lot of growth and a kid playing his best football by the end of 2011.
B.J. Lowery looks like Secretariat in the race to start at corner opposite Hyde. The Cincinnati product is big, athletic and probably would have more experience had he not went down with an arm injury a year ago.
Other candidates at corner are Greg Castillo and Torrey Campbell. Incoming freshmen Kevin Buford and Sean Draper also could have a shot to snag playing time if they prove worthy. Iowa will be without sophomore Jordan Lomax, who had season-ending shoulder surgery this summer.
Law, a true sophomore, has fans excited. He brings memories of strong special teams play last fall and a good pedigree out of high school in the D.C. area.
"True story, he didn't realize how good he was until he got double teamed a couple of times and he got ear-holed, and he realized, Nico, other people watch film," Wilson said. "He brought that energy to our kicking game, and I think he'll do the same in our defense."
Senior Colin Sleeper opened last season as the starting strong safety before he was replaced by Jordan Bernstine, now a member of the Washington Redskins. If Law should slip up, the Solon (Iowa) native has shown the coaches that he's more than capable.
Senior Jack Swanson has appeared in 32 games as a Hawkeye. He's worked at both safety spots during his career and also has been a familiar face on special teams.
True sophomore John Lowdermilk likely will be groomed by Miller at the free safety spot. Incoming freshman Anthony Gair looks like a future strong safety.
First-year freshman Ruben Lile is an interesting case. At 6-3, 200 pounds, he could get a look at corner but probably will grow into a safety and possibly a linebacker.
"When I was a linebacker coach, I was going to take him but now that I'm in the secondary, we want to keep him on the hash, if that makes sense," Wilson said.
This group also should benefit from the experience of Wilson. After coaching the Iowa linebackers for the last 10 seasons, the New Jersey native is moving back to his roots. He is a former all-American DB at I-AA UConn.
"My first collegiate job was in the secondary, so that's not really new to me," Wilson said.
You also can expect some different looks from the Iowa secondary.
"We really will be focused on footwork and man techniques and those things, so we are more comfortable with it, and we'll get a feel with whether or not we can play that type of defense or not.," Wilson said.