5 True Freshmen to Watch

Who might see the field in their first year on campus at Iowa? Hawkeye Insider takes a look at some possibilities.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - One of the most asked questions during the summer is who might contribute to the upcoming football season among the true freshmen.

Answer: Kirk Ferentz will get back to you.

Ultimately it's up to the head coach and his staff who sees the field right away. Sometimes it's pretty obvious, like highly-recruited prospects Matt Roth and C.J. Fiedorowicz. On other occasions, guys like Desmond King and Clinton Solomon emerge.

Twenty new faces are expected to file into Iowa City throughout the summer. Much of it will be spent on conditioning with Chris Doyle and working out with teammates. The coaches can't be involved on-field until camp gets underway in August.

It's a new world for the first-year freshmen. The academic, social and athletic adjustment is immense. Players mature at different rates.

The Hawkeye staff cleans the slate. These kids are given an opportunity to play based on what they show the coaches, not on recruiting rankings or reputations.

Lining up at a position of need can factor into the equation. It's also easier, as a rule, to play earlier for non-linemen. You can't hide in the trenches if you're behind physically. It also takes a special talent to step in quickly at quarterback.

With those elements in mind, let's take an crack at five true freshmen who could see the field in '14 (there were four in '13 and seven in '12):

5. Parker Hesse, LB, 6-3, 215

I could way off base on this one. He's playing baseball this summer and not getting to Iowa City until early August. I just think he's ready physically and mentally to contribute right away, especially on special teams. I also think there's opportunity at the LEO linebacker position if Hesse can show well early. He might not necessarily see a lot of action there in '14, but he can break in on return and coverage teams while seeing meaningful practice reps at his future position.

4. Joshua Jackson, DB, 6-1, 175

A really long athlete capable of playing on either side of the ball, Jackson gets his first shot in the defensive backfield, likely at safety, where the depth chart is thin. Jackson played against a high level of competition in high school and should be able to help on special teams while learning an every-down position.

3. Markel Smith, RB, 5-11, 210

Perhaps the offensive backfield is too crowded already for Smith to squeeze into the action. For me, the Hawkeyes still are searching for a back that is well-rounded. Smith could fill that role as the best combination of power and speed on the roster. This is more of a hunch, but with Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock in their final seasons and Jordan Canzeri being a junior, it could be in the coaches' minds to break in Smith if he shows he can block.

2. Jalen Embry, DB, 6-0, 184

Maybe it's because he comes to Iowa from the same Detroit high school (King) that produced Desmond King. More likely, it's the great things I've heard about this kid since the Hawkeyes became involved in his recruitment. He's a really good athlete getting a look in a thin secondary. He's versatile enough, like King, to line up at corner or safety, although he'll likely start off at the latter.

1. Miles Taylor, DB, 6-0, 185

Iowa swooped in and snagged Taylor away from Georgia Tech late in the process and it could pay immediate dividends. The safety is fast and physical and reminds me, dare I say, of a young Bob Sanders. Taylor flies to the ball and cracks opponents on contact. As mentioned, the defensive backfield is where there appears to be the most opportunity for newcomers. I feel like Taylor is the most ready of a talented bunch.

Other Candidates: Aaron Mends, LB; Jameer Outsey, LB/DE; Ben Niemann, LB; Omar Truitt, DB; Mick Ellis, PK; Jay Scheel, WR.


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