As the 2020 football draws closer, we’ll be counting down the weeks by previewing each of Iowa’s position groups for the upcoming season. While there are still question marks around practice schedules, whether fans will be in the stands and now which coaches will be on staff, the roster is largely set. We’ll take a look at who has come and gone from each group and who projects where.
We’ve already covered the following:
Up next, it’s the Cash position.
After decades of a base 4-3 defense and little change philosophically, defensive coordinator Phil Parker notoriously went against the grain a few seasons ago by making a shift to the defensive game plan. What started as the use of more Nickel defense to account for the advent of spread offenses finally evolved into a base 4-2-5 defense. It was a major change for Iowa and one that has worked out tremendously well thus far.
Amani Hooker was the first star to be born at the newly named “Cash” position - a hybrid of an outside linebacker and cover corner. The Cash is asked to match up with tight ends, slot receivers and play the run. It takes a special talent to do everything that’s asked and in 2019 it took Parker some time to identify who was best to replace the departed Hooker. Once he did, Iowa found themselves a playmaker likely to be in the fold for some time.
No, Stone didn’t take any snaps at Cash in 2019, but his departure did create an opening in the secondary. The need for the Cash to help in run support has led to the use of players who have historically projected at safety. With Stone out in 2020, there is a hole to fill in the back end that may take a body from the Cash depth chart.
Bracy is an incoming freshman from Mobile, Alabama. He was recruited as a safety, but like Dane Belton before him, his highlight film shows a lot of skills that translate well to the Cash position. He’s not at all afraid of contact and excels in diagnosing plays quickly in the run game. He’s more than capable in coverage and his time at RB at the prep level should tell you all you need to know about his talent with the ball in his hand.
Castro isn’t exactly an addition given he was on the roster a season ago, but he did take a redshirt year so he will be new to the field in 2020. Like both Bracy and Belton, Castro has a combination of skills that translate well to Cash. But when you turn on his prep clips, Castro immediately jumps off the screen.
His ability to sniff out runs and obliterate ball carriers is uncanny. If Castro doesn’t find his way into the field either at Safety or Cash, he’ll be one to watch on every kickoff purely for entertainment value.
As a true freshman in 2019, Belton saw action in eight games, including four starts, recording 33 tackles with 20 solo stops and 13 assists. After the question marks early in the season, Belton really stepped up down the stretch and proved himself as an integral cog in the Iowa defense. He’s the odds on favorite to win the job in 2020.
Brents is likely to be more of a factor at cornerback in 2020, but with Matt Hankins locking up one spot and Riley Moss likely to get the nod at the other, Brents is an option at Cash. He has a long frame and is a willing tackler. While injuries cost him all but one game in 2019, Brents saw action in 11 games as a true freshman in 2018.
Craddieth, like Brents, was a big time recruiting win in the class of 2018. Unlike Brents, however, Craddieth redshirted his first year in the program and saw action in just one game as a RS freshman in 2019. He doesn’t have the same length as Brents at only 5’11”, but he’s more of a Safety by nature which may lend him to more opportunity at Cash.
Projected Depth Chart
Belton is the odds on favorite to start at Cash in 2020. He earned the job as a true freshman in 2019 and really finished the year strong. He set a career high with 6 tackles in the Holiday Bowl won over USC, including 5 solos and a tackle fo loss. Look for him to pick up where he left off last year and develop into the next star in the mold of Amani Hooker and Geno Stone.
The only real question is whether Phil Parker wants to toy with dropping Belton back to safety to replace the departed Stone. His skill set lends itself well to the position and it would offer more time on the field. If Kaevon Merriweather can’t earn back his starting job or Jack Koerner’s injuries delay his progress, it’s not inconceivable to think Belton could start at Safety.
Behind Belton there are question marks. Brents is likely the third corner, meaning he’s the best coverage option not on the field every snap. He has a great frame and if not for Riley Moss earning his stripes and injuries in 2019, he may well be a starter on the outside. Craddieth is another highly talented DB who seemed destined for a big role, but simply hasn’t gotten going. If he takes a step forward, he would fill the role of Cash quite well in a pinch.
But the most intriguing option may be Castro. The RS freshman is electric in the run game and has the athletic ability to develop into a quality coverage DB. If he doesn’t end u as the backup Cash, look for him to make a push for reps at Safety.
Starter: Dane Belton
Backup: Julius Brents
3rd String: Sebastian Castro