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2022 position previews: Cornerbacks

Riley Moss is the reigning Big Ten defensive back of the year but Iowa has plenty of depth to line up on his opposite side

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When staring at Iowa’s positions, I decided to order these previews by how compelled I was by the positional battles which existed and the most boring to me was cornerbacks on first glance. Ho hum, the reigning Big Ten defensive back of the year returns. Nothing compelling there.

But I think I was wrong slotting this position first. Anyways...

The Golden Boy

Riley Moss. Beautiful in looks and ability. He jumpstarted Iowa’s 2021 campaign with a pair of pick-sixes which sent Michael Penix, Jr. packing his bags to Seattle:

Absolute delight. Yet an injury in the Penn State game, on an interception no less, derailed what could have been an all-time season into simply a very good one. After all, he accumulated no more interceptions after picking of the Nittany Lion backup and looked not himself as he was nursing his left knee injury.

He probably could have (should have?) gone pro, but a guy with his athleticism needs to be ready for the 40 time, something he may not have been able to max out with his injury rehab. He’s excited for it, saying “if you give me three months to train for a 40, it’s going to be awesome.”

But he’s back for his super senior year and looking to end career that had its ups and downs (lest we forget his freshman year against Purdue...yuck) with a bang and “broader horizons.” Some additional horizons to broaden would probably include an ability to slide inside and cover slot receivers as a nickel corner. After all, Wan’dale Robinson was able to make some key plays down the stretch of the bowl game loss.

From a records perspective...he’s 8 off the career mark of 18, set by Nile Kinnick & Devon Mitchell. If he gets those 8, he’d be in a five way tie with Kinnick, Kings Desmond & Lou, and Josh Jackson.

Also Casey’s: pay the man.

But also Riley: no free ads.

The starter-if-nobody-takes-it

It’s probably unfair to lead off the Jermari Harris portion with his DUI arrest after at was a pretty nice sophomore season. Yet, the offseason mishap will hold him out of Iowa’s first game. We’ve seen past Hawkeyes lose out on opportunities when backups show their mettle (LB Jack Hockaday & S Anthony Gair stick out as a couple in past seasons) so it bears mentioning.

PSA: Don’t drink and drive.

The Chicagoland product found his way onto the field last season after Iowa’s corners were hit with a rash of injuries - Moss, Matt Hankins, & Terry Roberts all missed time before Harris got the call. And he performed well in six starts and tied Moss with a team-high four interceptions while adding 34 tackles. Plus, we’re always gonna stan someone who closes out the Huskers:

If no one is great against South Dakota State, it’s likely we see Harris return to the starting lineup against the Cyclones.

The cult heroes

Cooper DeJean & Terry Roberts are beloved by Hawkeye fans for two very different reasons. For DeJean, it’s his accolades as adidas player of the year coming out of high school and WOW athleticism:

You dunk as a 6-ish footer, you have my attention.

For Roberts, it’s his prowess as an elite special teamer. He’s always in the right place at the right time, winning the special teams hustle award, and I’m convinced part of the reason Tory Taylor had so many touchbacks was that Roberts sat out.

Yet their first team experience is pretty sparse. DeJean hasn’t seen the field on defense as a backup and Quinn Schulte’s emergence as Jack Koerner’s likely replacement has put the sophomore (yes, I’m still salty Kirk burned his redshirt late in the season) has him at corner for the time being. Roberts tallied an interception against Maryland and started the following game against Penn State but his season was done after that.

DeJean’s measurables look the part a little more than Roberts’ but Parker hasn’t been shy about throwing out undersized CBs if they do what he wants. My gut is Roberts and his experience gets the nod in game one.

The early entrant

True freshman TJ Hall came onto Iowa’s campus this offseason after being a very late commit after a prior entanglement with Washington. He looks bigger than his 6’0” frame. I guess it must be nice to have really long arms.

I pull him out from the depth because he was mentioned explicitly by LeVar Woods as someone who could see the field as a returner. As Matt noted in his write-up, he was really successful at the prep level returning kicks and that could be his way onto the field early in his career.

Others

Redshirt sophomore Brendan Deasfernandes was a wild offer/commit (Iowa was the only Division 1 team to offer) who continues to grow into his body. AJ Lawson was also part of his class as a multisport athlete (basketball & track) who placed in the high jump. Koen Entriger was one of two recruits who hail from Phil Parker territory and looks the part at 6’2”. The other is 5’10” Deshaun Lee, alum of Belleville which produced Kaevon Merriweather and Deasfernandes.