Iowa fans, rejoice: Desmond King, the 2015 Thorpe Award winner and anchor of the Hawkeye secondary, will return for his senior season.
Iowa cornerback Desmond King is returning for his senior season. After weeks of speculation, King's mother, Yvette Powell, told The Daily Iowan Monday night the Thorpe Award winner will return for his senior season.
"He said he wants to go out in a good way and not in the way where he came from a loss," Powell said. "He wants to win … He came to me and said everything I was hoping.
"…Everybody’s surprised. It’s not about the money all the time. The money is going to be there. He has more chance to make more with a degree."
EDIT: King confirmed the news with a post on Instagram (one of the only Ferentz-tolerated social media platforms) on Tuesday:
Desmond King explains his decision to stay at Iowa on his Instagram account pic.twitter.com/lsBPf9y5PH— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) January 5, 2016
Iowa now brings back an absolute lockdown machine for one side of the field, who picked off eight passes and defended 13 more on the season despite quarterbacks' relative reluctance to target him. His blend of agility, toughness and IQ is rare even by Iowa's lofty standards for cornerbacks, and one would suspect only King's lack of elite top-end speed or size is keeping him from a high first-round projection in the upcoming draft. But those are nits to pick, and scouts know it: NFLDraftScout.com had him as the third-best CB and going to the Steelers late in the first round, and Walter Football projected him to Tampa Bay in the middle of the second. He's legit by NFL standards, and at the collegiate level he's downright lethal.
King's return means Iowa not only boasts senior returning starters at both corner positions, but also has the luxury of using another experienced senior, Maurice Fleming, as the nickel corner or a third starter, like Cole Croston's role with the tackles in 2015. There's an open spot at free safety with Jordan Lomax graduating, so we may see a corner shift there—like Lomax famously did before the 2013 season—but the promising rising sophomore Brandon Snyder will likely have something to say about that.
And then there's King's presence in the return game. While he wasn't able to break any kicks or punts to the house, he was the most consistently dynamic specialist Iowa has had back there in years, including that Micah Hyde guy who has housed three punts already for the Packers in his still-young NFL career. His return yardage placed him second on the team in all-purpose yards, and the 118 he gained off interception returns pushed him over 1,000 total yards without playing a single snap on offense. Iowa doesn't list kickoff return yardage records in its media guide (PDF), but as far back as sports-reference.com has kick & punt return yardage, nobody has logged more kick return yards in a season for the Hawkeyes than King's 708 yards, and nobody has combined for more between punt and kick returns than King's 949. Ramon Ochoa was close at 891 in 2003, but that's it.
There's no downside to this news (unless you're an NFL team who needs help at cornerback). A transcendent talent is returning and hungry, and he's getting his degree to boot. And considering the state of quarterbacks in the Big Ten in 2016, if anyone's foolish enough to test King, the man's going to feast.
Welcome home, Dez.