Let’s soak in some facts on Iowa’s ’09 secondary:
— Three of four starters return from a group that helped tie a school record with 23 interceptions. Twelve of those interceptions came from defensive backs who’ll return next season.
— Redshirt freshman strong safety Tyler Sash saved his best for last with two picks in Iowa’s Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina. His two interceptions tied the bowl record and he set Outback records for longest return (48) and return yards (74). His 147 yards on five interception returns this season ranks second in Iowa history behind Mike Stoops, who had 154 yards on six interceptions in 1983. He was Big Ten player of the week after Penn State. Four of his tied-for-team-high five interceptions came in Iowa’s final four games.
“You guys saw it as the season unfolded,” linebacker A.J. Edds said. “From his first start to now, he’s come miles. That’s what you want out of young guys. You want them learning and getting better every week. That’s what’s happened for Tyler.”
— Free safety Brett Greenwood was honorable mention all-Big Ten by league media. Here’s an award he received that’s intriguing, Win During the Week Award. That doesn’t come with any definition, but it’s likely an award based on effort and attention to detail during practice, something that carries a lot of weight with coaches.
— Cornerback Amari Spievey was the surprise of the season on the defensive side of the ball. The junior was a second-team all-Big Ten pick by league coaches. He had four interceptions and tied with Greenwood for third on the team with 68 tackles. Iowa got this out of him after he spent the 2007 season at Iowa Central shoring up grades.
“Spievey was a pleasant surprise,” Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker said. “We talked about Spievey, but we didn’t know that he would have that kind of year. He’s been a real pleasant surprise.”
— The cornerback spot that Bradley Fletcher (a very good football player) leaves open will likely be filled by junior Jordan Bernstine or sophomores Shaun Prater and William Lowe. Bernstine and Prater haven’t been starters but they’ve seen the field in nickel and dime packages many times last season. Lowe also saw some limited action as a true freshman.
In my mind, five of the eight spots on the depth chart are filled.
Greenwood, Sash and Spievey are starters and then Bernstine/Prater. After those five, it’s much tougher to guess who goes where.
A name or two in the secondary has come up with transfer rumors. I don’t feel comfortable bringing those names up because we really don’t know what’s fact at this point.
At safety, junior Diauntae Morrow would be No. 3 with sophomore David Cato next. Redshirt freshman Jack Swanson made some impressive weight and strength gains during his redshirt year.
Another factor here is injuries. Greenwood and Sash fought through shoulder problems throughout the year. Sash missed one game (Northwestern) and Greenwood wore a harness the last few weeks. No official word on their availability for spring practice (March 25), but one or both could miss some time. Does this open the door for someone else? Doubt it. It’s just spring and we’re talking about a sophomore and a junior with 31 career starts between them.
Norm Parker was asked about Greenwood and Sash during Outback Bowl week.
“Greenwood has really come along,” he said. “As you know, he was a walk-on. We always compared him when he was young, you know, he’s a young (Sean) Considine or a young (Derek) Pagel. He sort of came the same way. He’s become more assertive out there. The free safety has to be the quarterback out there a little bit. Here was a freshman that just got off a yellow school bus and he’s supposed to tell these other guys what to do. That’s not that easy. The more he’s learned it, the better he’s gotten at being assertive out there.”
On Sash, “My impression of Sash is I think he’s a darn good athlete. He’s like a lot of young guys. He really didn’t know if he was as good as the other guys. All of a sudden he’s found out practicing to say, ‘Hey, I’m as good as those guys.’ Since then, he’s sort of taken off. He’s got a little swagger to him.
“These two kids are going to be excellent in the future. They’re just babies.”
At corner, it’s Spievey with Bernstine, Prater and Lowe competing for the other side. Bernstine might have a slight size edge. Prater was among the fastest players on the team last season. Lowe seems to be one of those natural corners. Also in the mix somewhere are senior Chris Rowell and redshirt freshman Greg Castillo. Joe Conklin and Taylor Herbst are walk ons. Micah Hyde was the only defensive back in the 2009 recruiting class. He might get a shot depending what he shows in camp.
There is one senior (Rowell) in the entire secondary.