Sneak Peek: Projecting 2010 DB Depth Chart

In the eighth part of the series looking at the projected depth chart at each position for 2010, Hawkeye Insider analyzes the defensive backfield. Who steps in for Amari Spievey? Will any of the true freshmen see the field? HI.com ties to answer those questions and more in Sneak Peek.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - The photo resides in the Iowa football complex. It shows Hawkeye safety Tyler Sash in the midst of returning an interception against Indiana for a touchdown.

In a season of rare occurrences – two blocked kicks against UNI, Adrian Clayborn's punt block/return for touchdown at Penn State, Marvin McNutt's last-season, game-winning TD catch at Michigan State – Sash's play might rank as the craziest of the bunch. The ball ricocheted off of several players like a pinball before settling into the safety's hands.

The game was played on Halloween. In the background of the photo is someone dressed up like Jesus. (Go check it out again). At that point of the game, Iowa was looking for divine intervention to gain momentum against underdog Indiana.

Sash turned out a little lucky in that situation, but he proved more good than fortunate in his first two seasons as Iowa's starting strong safety. The junior intercepted six passes on the season to push his career total to 11, which ranks sixth on Iowa's all-time list. He broke the mark for career return yards on pickoffs with 350, which is fifth best in Big Ten history.

Iowa fans should be comforted in knowing they have Sash for two more seasons and his running mate, free safety Brett Greenwood, next fall. Starting cornerback Shaun Prater also returns.

The Hawkeyes are looking to replace Amari Spievey, who left his cornerback spot for the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining. It won't be easy but having starters back in the other three defensive back positions will help cushion the effects of the departure.

In another installment of Sneak Peek, Hawkeye Insider looks at the potential depth chart in the defensive backfield:

No. 1 CB Shaun Prater, TR Junior - Prater was overshadowed by the other three members of Iowa's starting secondary last year, but the Nebraska native enjoyed a fine season as a first-year starter. He ranked second in the league in past breakups during Big Ten play.

No. 2 CB Micah Hyde, TR Sophomore - The Ohio native got his feet wet last season on special teams. He also saw reps in the nickel and dime packages and showed well.

Hyde is a pretty high level third corner and nice insurance should an injury pop up.

No. 1 FS Brett Greenwood, RS Senior - Followed in the footsteps of Derek Pagel and Sean Considine in walking on to the team and winning the starting spot. He earned second-team all-Big Ten honors from the media in 2009. He intercepted three passes and performed well as the quarterback of the secondary.

No. 2 Jack Swanson, RS Sophomore - The Florida native has worked hard in the weight room to prepare himself for Big Ten pounding. He's look good on special teams and should take the next step this season in his pursuit to replace Greenwood.

No. 1 SS Tyler Sash, RS Junior - Oskaloosa product arrived with a reputation of being an excellent athlete and has lived up to the advanced billing. He struggled in pass coverage at times his freshman season and early last year but really has taken the necessary steps to solidify that part of his game.

Sash's potential points to him perhaps becoming the most complete strong safety in the Kirk Ferentz Era.

No. 2 SS Nick Nielsen, RS Sophomore - Tyler's younger brother walked onto the Hawkeyes after an all-state career at Humboldt High. The 6-foot-3 athlete has cut his teeth on special teams and added weight to a slender physique.

Nielsen will need to take the next step in his development because he could be pushed by younger scholarship players.

No. 1 CB Jordan Bernstine, RS Junior - The Des Moines Lincoln graduate has suffered through some hard luck on the injury front, including one to his ankle that forced him to redshirt last season. He had entered camp as the No. 1 corner.

Physically, Bernstine looked great during Orange Bowl preparations.

No. 2 CB William Lowe, TR Junior - A product of the successful Glenville program in Cleveland, Lowe started against Iowa State last season and performed well in the limited time he saw during the season. He's also played an important role on special teams.

Lowe and Hyde provide depth at corner that Iowa hasn't enjoyed much in the last decade plus.

Others to Watch

Greg Castillo - Started the opener against Northern Iowa in place of the suspended Prater last season and struggled. He came back to play better later in the season and contributed on special teams. It's nice to know someone capable like Castillo is your fifth corner.

Tom Donatell - Walk-on has moved from quarterback to linebacker to defensive back. He'll begin his fourth season in the program.

Collin Sleeper - Solon (Iowa) High alum enters his third season in the program after walking on.

Jason White - A walk-on from Davenport North, White performed well on special teams last season. He switched to the defensive backfield from running back.

Anthony Hitchens - A two-way player as an Ohio prep, the true freshman loved physical play as a running back and safety. He has a chance to play as a first-year player at a relatively thin safety position.

B.J. Lowery - Another true freshman from Ohio, Lowery will work in at cornerback and likely red shirt.

Tanner Miller - Another two-way player in high school like Hitchens, Miller reminds some folks of Sash. The door is also open for him to push into the two deep at safety.

Don Shumpert - Another solid athlete from the 2010 class, Shumpert might be competing with Hitchens and Miller for playing time as a true freshman.


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