IOWA CITY, Iowa - B.J. Lowery's graduation from Iowa opened up a fierce competition for his vacated cornerback spot. Three players have been vying for the starting nod. They remained deadlocked through Saturday's Kids Day practice, coach Kirk Ferentz said.
This week, separation might be occurring. The Big Ten Network, which received access to Tuesday's workout, reported that Greg Mabin was running with the ones. Defensive Coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker talked up the sophomore during an interview with the conference's TV station.
Mabin's emergence probably surprised some fans. The Florida product was thought to be an underdog in the race with Sean Draper and Maurice Fleming. He switched from wide receiver to cornerback just last spring.
Parker hinted at his high opinion of Mabin during December's bowl preparations and again in April. He sat out the Kids Day Practice with injury but Ferentz still mentioned him.
"Greg has really done a good job," he said.
Mabin visited Ferentz's office last offseason asking the coach for a new jersey number. He wanted to switch from 88 to 13.
"That's when he asked me if I wanted to change positions. You can't say no to coach. He just brought up my skill set. I'm big, long, lanky, have quick feet. He just felt corner was the position for me and the need at corner was bigger than at receiver at the time," Mabin said.
Mabin spent the last year and a half learning cornerback. He played very little defense in high school so it all was new.
"It was a big transition year. I pretty much used it that year to get the position down, get the techniques and the fundamentals," the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder said.
Mabin said changing the direction in which he moved was the hardest adjustment in his move from offense to defense.
"At receiver, you never have to be in a back-peddle. You're always going forward. At corner, you have to be comfortable backpedaling and coming in and out of your breaks," he said.
Mabin leaned on Lowery for advice last season. The latter earned first-team all-conference in '13.
"B.J. was a big help just from a film standpoint, understanding the playbook, understanding my technique. We'd go out on the field and he would coach me on little things that I needed to do," Mabin said.
Parker teaches camaraderie in his secondary. Mabin, Draper and Fleming are competing but not at odds.
"There's not animosity. It's all just friendly competition. We're all just trying to get the same thing and trying to make the team better," Mabin said.