Posted by: marcmwm | February 23, 2009

Bright future in the secondary

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. 

outback_bowl_more_15 by crgazette.

Iowa Hawkeyes Tyler Sash intercepts a pass intended for South Carolina Gamecocks Kenny McKinley during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)  






  1. 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.

    Then I’ll mention them if you won’t…. Do you think we see Tillison or Morrow next season?

    Hope so as they both sounded like they have/had good potential.

  2. I hate to play coy with this stuff, and I really try not to.

    Yes, those are the names. I didn’t count Tillison among defensive backs because he did move to LB last season. In at least a few games (Wisconsin, for sure), he carved himself a nice spot as a hybrid player in nickel-dime packages.

    Ferentz was asked about Tillison. He said he’d know more by the end of March.

    He wasn’t asked about Morrow and I have no idea on that one. We’ll see this spring.

    Look at his situation. He’ll be a junior next season with a sophomore and a fellow junior ahead of him on the depth chart. He hasn’t redshirted, so, if he left, he’d have two years at an FBS school. That’s what we know. We don’t know how close the depth chart races are or if there are any.

    Either way, Iowa will need at least three defensive backs in the ’10 recruiting class.

  3. […] three starters back, Iowa's secondary figures to be one of the Big Ten's best units in 2009, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse writes in his […]

  4. […] three starters back, Iowa's secondary figures to be one of the Big Ten's best units in 2009, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse writes in his […]

  5. Those names are all over the internet boards so I saw no reason to not mention them.

    One thing I’ll say for those boards, a LOT of times, where there is smoke- there’s Arvell Nelson leaving it in plain view in his dorm room for the cops to see.

    Seriously, a lot of stuff comes to fruition that starts as rumor over there(HR)

  6. No problem, E. I think you’re right, smoke = fire more often than not with board rumors.

    I like to stay with what I can verify or have verified, especially when it comes to transfer and academics.

  7. You missed Cato is going JUCO for grades. He won’t be with the team but he is hoping to make it back in 2010.

  8. Cali, I hadn’t heard that one. That’s cutting it dangerously thin.

  9. Damn, losing Cato stinks. He sounds like a good one.

    Marc, who all lost positions at the CRG? That sucks but the net has killed the print. I have read the paper daily since I could read, taught myself to read by reading baseball boxscores/stories as a 5 year old.

    Nowadays I log on and haven’t bought a paper forever…..

  10. Sorry, E, I took a one-night sabbatical from my computer.

    We lost 14 people in the newsroom, including three gentlemen in sports who racked up about 60 years of experience.

    I parked in an empty parking lot this morning and I’m staring at two empty desks that had a lot of life in them yesterday.

    As far as football, I was thinking about this last night. The two ends for players that are terribly heart-breaking are injury and academics. Injuries are part of the game, but when a career ends because of them, it shakes me. Kids are in control of academics and take blame in the failures, but I don’t blame anyone. That first year is such a difficult transition.

  11. I take the Cato remark back. I guess it was just a rumor that turned out to be false… I really hope so anyhow! I was really impressed with Cato on special teams last year. He could be the next Bob Sanders the way he hits!!!

  12. Thanks for clarifying, Cali.

  13. […] a couple of days ago that some people were writing about how the Iowa Hawkeyes secondary could be one of the best in the Big Ten thanks to the depth of the unit, and three returning starters.  The argument could very easily ring true come the fall, but […]

  14. […] […]

  15. […] […]

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