The King is here. Long live the King. Desmond King turned heads as a true freshman starter for Iowa two years ago -- and he's only gotten better since then. 2015 has seen King play at an exceptionally high level -- and it's earned him recognition from the Big Ten as the 2015 Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten.
King is the second Iowa player to win the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year, after Micah Hyde in 2012. (H/T @Hawkeye Gamefilm). King, like Hyde, was a 2* recruit coming out of high school. Phil Parker, doin' work, just like always. The case for King is pretty easy to make, especially when you look at several of his key statistics:
The interceptions are what catch the eye -- he's snared eight passes this season, tied for the most in all of the FBS and the most in the Big Ten. But there's more to his game than just being a ballhawk, too -- even when he doesn't get an interception, he's often able to break up a pass (as evidenced by those 11 pass break ups listed above). Those 19 total passes defended rank him near the very top in the nation (Northern Illinois' Shawun Lurry is tops in the nation with 22 passes defended). He's also a willing and able defender in run support -- several of those 61 tackles came near the line of scrimmage and helped contribute to Iowa's sterling run defense stats (6th in the nation).
King's also been a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands -- did you know he's second on the Iowa team in all-purpose yards per game (69.1 ypg), behind only Jordan Canzeri? Most of that yardage comes from his skill as a punt and kickoff returner and his ability, but he had 118 interception return yards, including an electrifying 88-yard return (not 99, as the graphic above indicates) for a touchdown against Maryland.
Desmond King has been a joy to watch at cornerback for the last three seasons and it's gratifying to see his excellent play recognized and rewarded by the Big Ten. Iowa has seen some fine cornerbacks during Phil Parker's tenure at Iowa, but King might very well be the best of the bunch.
Congrats on a well-deserved honor, Desmond. Here's to a few more knockout performances before we draw the curtain on this season next month.
BONUS! King, obviously, also earned All-Big Ten first team honors for his play this season. No other Hawkeyes earned All-Big Ten first team honors, but six other Iowa defenders were named to All-Big Ten teams.
Desmond King: unanimous selection, All-Big Ten first team (coaches and media)
Josey Jewell: All-Big Ten second team (coaches and media)
Jordan Lomax: All-Big Ten third team (coaches), honorable mention (media)
Nate Meier: All-Big Ten third team (coaches and media)
Cole Fisher: All-Big Ten honorable mention (coaches and media)
Jaleel Johnson: All-Big Ten honorable mention (coaches and media)
Ben Niemann: All-Big Ten honorable mention (coaches)
Not surprisingly, the coaches loved a bit more than the media -- where there was a discrepancy between the coaches and media, the coaches rated a player more highly (Lomax as third team versus honorable mention, Niemann as honorable mention versus no recognition). Iowa isn't the flashiest team, but they are the sort of team that embodies many of the values and principles that coaches cherish.
Also, it's remarkable that all three of Iowa's starting linebackers -- Jewell, Fisher, and Niemann -- earned some sort of All-Big Ten recognition this year. That's quite a change from a year ago, when linebacker play was the weakest link in the Iowa defense. The changes Iowa made at that position, in terms of player assignments and coaching responsibilities, has paid huge dividends this season.