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Iowa Football Previews: Defensive Backs

Phil Parker has the “Doughboys” looking for the money

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 TransPerfect Music City Bowl
DeJean is Iowa’s best football player
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are some constants in life. Death, taxes, and Phil Parker putting an excellent defensive backfield together for the Iowa Hawkeyes. In just the recent past, Iowa has produced Micah Hyde, Desmond King, Amani Hooker, and Dane Belton to name just a few. Despite losing leaders and playmakers in Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather to the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively, Iowa looks to be very good in the secondary again this year.

The Starters:

The best player on Iowa’s roster is junior Cooper DeJean. DeJean (6’1”, 207#) totaled 75 tackles, 3 TFL, 8 pass breakups, 5 interceptions, and 3 touchdowns last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see DeJean put up even better numbers this year. He has an electricity about him that rivals that of Tim Dwight back in the day. Cooper is a homerun waiting to happen.

Safety Quinn Schulte (6’1”, 209#) collected 72 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 1 interception in 2022-23. Under Parker Iowa will always have a heady safety who knows his assignments and is rarely out of position. One player who everyone is excited to see more of is sophomore Xavier Nwankpa (6’2”, 210#). “X” started the Music City Bowl against Kentucky and went out and had 8 tackles, 1 pass break up, an interception, and a 52 yard pick 6.

Iowa’s starting corner opposite DeJean is veteran Jermari Harris (6’1”, 190#). Harris sat out last year due to injury. In ‘21-’22 Harris collected 34 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions.

Iowa’s CASH Sebastian Castro (5’11”, 205#) also returns. Castro plays a very physical style of football; he’s cut from a similar cloth as Iowa legend Bob Sanders. Castro is out there looking to lay some wood to people. Castro had 33 tackles, 3 TFL, and 5 passes defensed a year ago.

One of my favorite things about Iowa football is watching the Hawks intercept a pass and immediately go into a “this is going to the house” mentality. Watch the blocking and aggressive play once the ball is turned over. “Doughboys” indeed!

Depth:

The Hawkeyes have some talent behind these starters, but there is not a great deal of experience. TJ Hall, Koen Entringer, and Deshaun Lee are players who will be expected to contribute.

TJ Hall: 6’0”, 185 pounds (sophomore)

Koen Entringer: 6’0”, 211 pounds (RS Fr)

Deshaun Lee: 5’10”, 187 pounds (RS Fr)

Iowa was hurt last year against Nebraska when Cooper DeJean was forced out of the game because of injury. Getting reps on special teams and giving starters breathers, especially early in the season, will be very important for this young group of players.

By the Numbers:

  • Iowa’s defensive backs accounted for 12 interceptions in 2022-23.
  • Completion percentage against Iowa’s defense: 59%
  • Allowed 5.3 yards/pass
  • Allowed 9.0 yards/catch
  • Allowed 169.5 yards/game
  • 3rd down percentage against: 31%

Outlook:

With Cooper DeJean the Hawkeyes could very well have the conference’s defensive player of the year. Xavier Nwankpa looks like he has all of the tools to play in the League. As long as Kirk Ferentz and Phil Parker are around, Iowa will put its best athletes on the defensive side of the ball. If the Hawks can stay healthy and develop depth in the defensive backfield, with Iowa’s excellent defensive line, I see Iowa’s defensive backs getting more opportunities to pick off many passes. And once that happens, watch the Doughboys turn into offensive players looking for that endzone. That alone is worth the price of admission. As always, Go Hawks!