Iowa's depth in the defensive backfield got a bit thinner yesterday as the school announced that senior defensive back Maurice Fleming would be transferring away for his final season of eligibility.
UI announces DB Maurice Fleming will grad-transfer to another school. He started last year's regular-season finale at Nebraska.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) April 19, 2016
Fleming, who redshirted in 2012, has completed his degree at Iowa and will be a graduate transfer, meaning that he will be eligible to go to any school and play next season. Iowa reportedly placed no restrictions on his transfer destination.
Fleming, a 3* recruit out of the Chicago area, chose Iowa over offers from Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Minnesota, and a handful of MAC schools, in 2012. Since coming off his redshirt in 2013, Fleming has mainly contributed at Iowa on special teams and as a reserve defensive back. He was unable to beat out Desmond King for a starting role when King emerged in 2013 and he was also unable to beat out Greg Mabin when the other starting cornerback job opened up a year later. Last year Fleming settled into a role as Iowa's primary nickel cornerback and saw action in sets with five or more defensive backs. For his career at Iowa, Fleming had 31 tackles, six passes broken up, and a forced fumble. 2015 was his most successful season: 17 tackles and five passes broken up.
In hindsight, the fact that Fleming was used as a backup safety at the open practice at West Des Moines Valley a few weeks ago should have been a sign that he may have been looking at a diminished role in 2016. With Mabin out for spring with an injury, Fleming should have had an increased opportunity to show his stuff at cornerback. Rapidly-improving sophomore cornerback Josh Jackson ended up getting a lot of reps (and impressing) across from King at the Valley practice and he clearly seems to have moved past Fleming in the coaches' estimation. While Fleming still would have been a contributor in 2016 -- on special teams for sure and likely also on defense in some capacity -- it's not hard to see why he might want to try and find a bigger role elsewhere for his final season of eligibility.
Fleming's departure does leave Iowa without some experienced depth at the cornerback position, though. King and Mabin bring a lot of experience and talent to the starting roles, but the top cornerbacks behind them on the depth chart now are Jackson and redshirt freshman Michael Ojemudia. Gulp. Let's hope that King and Mabin are able to stay healthy this fall. Iowa did bring in several defensive backs as part of their 2016 recruiting class and I'd imagine that Fleming's departure increases the odds of one or more of those freshmen playing in 2016.
Best of luck to Fleming in his final college season.