Iowa football: Previewing the cornerbacks

iowa football

Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz once again has a shut down cornerback in Desmond King, but who is going to line up against him?

Under defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Phil Parker, Iowa’s corners have been nothing short of amazing. Since 2005, only two starting cornerbacks haven’t made it in the NFL. That’s almost 9 years of continued success. While Iowa won’t have anyone go to the pros this season, there is definitely a player that looks to be a high draft pick in the future after a sensational freshman season.

Desmond King (#30, Sophomore, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, East English Village HS (Detroit, MI))

In the opening game last year when Jordan Lomax went down with an injury, many expected a more experienced Sean Draper or redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming to take his place. Instead true freshman Desmond King stepped in and never looked back. He started the next game, making him the first true freshman since 2002 to start in the defensive secondary for Iowa. He continued to start the rest of the season, establishing himself as the best cornerback on the team; even better than B.J. Lowery. He wrapped up the season with Freshman-All-American honors with his 69 tackles with three for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, and 8 passes defended.

The last true freshman to play to this extent was James Morris. He stepped in at the beginning of the Big Ten campaign and played well. But for the next two seasons he didn’t take off like everyone thought he would. Then his senior season he played outstanding. The point is, sometimes someone has a stupendous true freshman season and they don’t take off like everyone thought.

With that said, the expectations are high for King this season and I really don’t think he will disappoint. He has good size, speed, and great technique for his age. The scary thing is he is only going to get better. Under defensive coordinator Phil Parker, King’s trajectory is sky high. He could receive all-big-ten honors this season; though maybe first team is a little out of reach for the true sophomore. Iowa truly has a shutdown corner in King for the next couple of seasons.

Second Cornerback Spot:

Sean Draper (#7, Junior, 6 feet, 190 pounds, Glenville HS (Cleveland, OH))

Maurice Fleming (#28, Sophomore (RS), 6 feet, 200 pounds, Curie Metropolitan HS (Chicago, IL))

Greg Mabin (#13, Sophomore (RS), 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Calvary Christian Academy HS (Fort Lauderdale, FL))

I am going to take what I said about these players from my article about break out defensive players:

“Ok, I’m cheating. I’m not naming a specific name to who I think this will be because I have no idea. If all indications are correct, it is down to Maurice Fleming (sophomore), Sean Draper (junior), or Greg Mabin (sophomore). Right now Fleming and Draper are tied at the top of the depth chart but the coaches said to not sleep on Mabin as he is really making plays in practice.

Fleming came to Iowa as a wide receiver but made the move to cornerback during his freshman season. He redshirted that year as he also recovered from a torn ACL injury he acquired druing his senior season in high school. He played in eight games as a redshirt freshman, mainly playing in dime packages. He didn’t play too much in the early part of the season but did play in the last five games.

Draper on the other hand played quite a bit in the early parts of the season. Then he played poorly against Michigan State and barely played the rest of the season playing in only 3 of the last seven games. He is a true junior after seeing the field some as a true freshman in 2012. When on the field he has given up some big plays, namely two against Michigan State on the same drive which allowed them to score.

Mabin is the most interesting out of the three. He made the move from wide receiver to cornerback just recently and has yet to see any game action. The coaches said he has really picked up the position fast and they are fascinated by his physical attributes. Mabin is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He is supposedly very fast and has great ball skills. He is still working on the finer points of the position but the coaches think that he may have the highest ceiling.

Now these guys haven’t had much time on the field to show what they can do, but the reason why I think one of them will have a breakout season is because of Phil Parker. The defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach always has a pair of tremendous corners that he coaches up. In the past 7 years, he has had at least one cornerback every year go to the NFL either by being drafted or picked up as a free agent. That is a very good track record.

You can always expect his cornerbacks to be sound against the run and avoid giving up the big play. They will be solid and won’t make too many mental errors. While I won’t be expecting another shut down corner like Desmond King to come out, I do think they will be solid players. Right now if I had to guess, I would expect Fleming to start but it wouldn’t surprise me if Draper or Mabin have their names on top of the depth chart by the start of the season.”

There still hasn’t been any indication on who is the starter yet so we are going to have to wait until August to find out. Unless one of the players truly stand out, there may be a slight rotation. Maybe one is better at run so they see the field more against pro-style offenses and they others see more playing time against spread formations. It’s hard to predict this position right now, but I think we can expect a solid, well coached corner to play across from King.