Brett Greenwood might not be a very good poker player.
Asked if he hears or reads what is out there on the internet about him, he smiled a little. The Iowa free safety said one thing, but that smile might’ve been a tell.
Of course, we’ve had this conversation here. A lot of internet folk are down — way down — on Greenwood. The complaints range from bad angles to missed tackles to few big hits. I’m still throwing it out there for concrete examples. I know there are missed tackles, but I can’t think of one from Greenwood that led to a loss or a big play. I’m not saying that example isn’t out there, though. None jump out at me.
Strong safety Tyler Sash was out of position for a 52-yarder against Michigan State that led to points and a 50-yard TD at Illinois. Sash was a first-year starter finding his way. By the end of the season, he found his way. Four of his tied-for-team-high five interceptions came in Iowa’s final four games, including the pick that set up Iowa’s game-winning drive against then-No. 3 Penn State, which helped him earn Big Ten defensive player of the week.
Can’t think of those plays for Greenwood (except for the late-hit penalty at Pitt, that hurt). I’m not trying to be too harsh on Sash. I think he grew and was all-Big Ten caliber at the end of the year. What am I missing on Greenwood?
Greenwood’s first start — at Penn State in 2007 — was tough. That one stood out. He had a lot of “teaching moments” during his first season, when he made the transition from walk-on. Last season, Greenwood was one of Iowa’s most improved defenders. He finished tied for third on the team with 68 tackles last season, two picks and six pass breakups.
If Greenwood picks up on the internet vitriol, he’s not letting on. Not really.
“Nah,” he said to the question. “To be honest with you, I really try not to pay attention to the outside noise or whatever, you know. All that really matters is what happens in here and wins and losses. That’s all that really matters.
“We had a pretty solid defense last year.”
By the end of the season, Greenwood was playing with a bum left shoulder. He wore a harness (one of those neoprene thingies; you can tell a player has a shoulder injury if half his biceps is covered with neoprene) for at least the final four games. By the Outback Bowl, Greenwood was gutting it out.
As it turned out, Greenwood, Sash and outside linebacker A.J. Edds were gutting it out. All three had shoulder surgery during the offseason. On the same day. One right after the other.
“I had surgery with the other two,” Greenwood said. “The doctors sort of went down the line, all on the same day. From Sash to me to Edds. It was all right.”
(Edds didn’t participate Saturday, but he was catching some punts in before practice began. Instead of running the ball back to the punter, he threw it. He was throwing it 60 yards. I pointed that out to him and he said the shoulder was fine.)
What can you do during spring practice when you can’t practice?
“I’ve just tried to stay mentally sharp with our defense, if we put new calls in or whatever it might be, just staying on top of that,” Greenwood said. “Also, I’m trying to help the younger guys. They come in and they’re not as assertive, maybe a little nervous. Just trying to help them with their reads and everything.”
Did secondary coach Phil Parker’s belief in Sash (two-year starter next fall) and Greenwood (three-year starter) give Lance Tillison (who was officially a linebacker when he left, not a safety) and Diauntae Morrow reason to transfer? Probably. But are the results there? I think yes.
Iowa has two more years of Greenwood and three more of Sash. That’s a good thing, IMO. Historically, Iowa’s safeties have gotten better with age, and that includes Bob Sanders, who went from rocket knockout punch to rocket knockout punch with good coverage skills by the time he was a senior.
I’m not saying he’s an all-American, but Greenwood is a plus for Iowa’s defense, perhaps an all-Big Ten candidate next season. He didn’t make the same mistakes he made in 2007. Follow that growth, he should be a year better this season.
We can argue now. Bring specifics and, please, be respectful.