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26 Days Until Iowa Football: Kaevon Merriweather

This sophomore safety appears poised to crack the starting lineup far earlier than anyone expected. Is he ready to become Iowa’s next great diamond in the rough in the secondary?

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Next up on the countdown to Iowa football is a player whose fortunes have changed dramatically over the past year. Transitioning from an overlooked high school recruit to a little-used backup to a projected starter, this player could very well be poised to have a breakout season as a new face in Iowa’s vaunted secondary.

Kaevon Merriweather- SO

Belleville, Michigan (Belleville High)

6’0, 210 lbs

2019 Projection: Starting Free Safety

Few observers could have predicted Merriweather’s meteoric rise to the top of Iowa’s defensive depth chart. Merriweather transferred to Belleville High in Michigan where he was largely overshadowed by future Michigan State commit Julian Barnett. While Merriweather did receive a offers to play basketball at the collegiate level, Iowa was the first and only D1 program to offer him a football scholarship. In a recruiting class featuring highly-touted secondary prospects such as Dallas Craddeith, Julius Brents, and DJ Johnson, the commitment of Merriweather, who finished his senior season as the 157th ranked safety prospect, was viewed by many fans as an afterthought.

Merriweather did not redshirt during his freshman year, and while he did see action in nine games during 2018, he failed to make much of an impact on the field, recording only a single tackle during Iowa’s opener against Northern Illinois. Still, many around the program took note of the buzz growing around Merriweather as the season progressed, and defensive coordinator Phil Parker made note of the strides he had made last September. By the time Iowa’s bowl prep had concluded, Phil Parker was singling Merriweather out as a potential rising star to look out for next season. Now, Merriweather sits alone at the top of Iowa’s depth chart as the projected starter at free safety.

In hindsight, there were some signs that Merriweather had the potential to be a diamond in the rough. Merriweather only played two years of high school football, so he certainly had plenty of room to develop as his football acumen improved. Merriweather’s basketball skills clearly speak to his athleticism, and his gridiron high school film shows an aggressive competitor and strong hitter who relishes contact, very much the mold of an Iowa defender. Even more impressive is the way he consistently flies towards the ball, often beating his teammates to the ballcarrier despite having to come from the opposite side of the field to make the play.

Phil Parker’s vote of confidence should also be taken as a meaningful sign that Merriweather can play. From Bob Sanders to Charles Godfrey to Amani Hooker, Parker has a nearly unparalleled track record of taking underrecruited, overachieving players and transforming them into stars in the secondary. That Parker was tipped off about Merriweather by his high school coach Jermain Crowell, the same man who alerted Iowa’s staff about another criminally underrated secondary prospect from Detroit a few years prior, likely did not hurt.

Impressive as Merriweather’s ascent has been, he still has big shoes to fill in replacing Amani Hooker and Jake Gervase, both of whom are currently in NFL training camps. He very well may suffer from some growing pains this season as he has works to adjust to the rigors of major college football despite his extremely limited reps. However, all signs point upward for Merriweather, who the Hawkeyes will count on to be a major defensive contributor in 2019.