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Assume the Position 2013: Cornerback

Phil Parker returns to the defensive backfield. Can he bring his magic touch back with him?

David Banks

Assume the Position is our offseason guide to the Iowa Hawkeyes football depth chart. The math is difficult, so take it from us: As time moves on, we'll know more. That's why we rank the positions from most certain to least certain.

Previously on Assume the Position 2013:

1. Tight End
2. Linebacker
3. Running Back
4. Defensive Tackle

Today: Cornerback

This one could have been difficult. Iowa had five underclassmen at cornerback that all could have been in play for the now-vacant second cornerback position. But with Kevin Buford and Torrey Campbell hanging up their turf shoes, this depth chart isn't nearly as convoluted. The question is no longer who is going to play. The question is whether the return of Phil Parker to the secondary can make a serious difference in an underachieving position group.


B.J. Lowery (#19, Senior, 5'11, 193 lbs., Hughes HS (Cincinnati, OH))

Here's a list of the top Iowa cornerbacks, by season, since 2005:

2005: Jovon Johnson (Winnipeg Blue Bombers/former CFL Defensive Player of the Year)
2006-07: Charles Godfrey (Entering his sixth season with the Carolina Panthers)
2008: Bradley Fletcher (First season with Philadelphia after four seasons with St. Louis)
2009: Amari Spievey (Fourth season with the Detroit Lions)
2010-11: Shaun Prater (Second season with the Cincinnati Bengals)
2012: Micah Hyde (Just got drafted by Green Bay)

Since 2005, there are two Iowa starting cornerbacks who are not still making money playing football: Antwan Allen and Adam Shada. Of those six players who all made a career playing football, one of them -- Prater -- earned even a three-star rating; that's an average rating of 2.17 for six unheralded guys that Iowa converted into pros. That's a remarkable run of form, and a credit to Phil Parker's ability as a secondary coach. Iowa is offensive line U and tight end U, but it's really under-recruited cornerback U more than anything else.

Now it's Lowery's turn. He's arguably more athletically talented than any of his six predecessors, but he also has less experience than most of them and struggled mightily and repeatedly through his first season as a starter. There might not be a player who could benefit more from Parker's return to the secondary. For one, he gets a year of the truly hands-on coaching that the others got. For another, perhaps Parker can shake some sense into the safeties and get Lowery some help over the top. The job is unquestionably his -- he's the most talented player in the Iowa secondary, bar none -- but whether the next job is his will be up to this season.

The Funny Guy

Jordan Lomax (#27, Sophomore (RS), 5'10, 195 lbs., DeMatha Catholic HS (Upper Marlboro, MD))

Lomax, a three-star recruit out of DeMatha, played on special teams as a freshman and was in the running for the third cornerback spot in 2012. One week before fall practice began, he suffered a torn labrum, went through shoulder surgery, and was done for the year. The year off wasn't the world's worst thing; anything that prevented a potential starter from burning a year of eligibility on the tire fire that was 2012 is a silver lining at worst, even if Lomax didn't quite see it that way:

"Sitting out a whole year is probably one of the worst things that could happen," Lomax said. "The whole year was hard for me, but I had to keep pushing through and keep my faith in God. My family and the team and coaches were behind me, telling me to take it slow and come back 100 percent, and you're going to have a good year next year. That's what is going on right now. I'm trying to keep moving forward and do whatever I can to help my team out."

But it does open the door for one of the healthy guys from 2012 to move ahead, and if Buford or Campbell had stayed, this could have been much more competitive. They're gone, though, and Lomax appears poised to take three full seasons as a starter. It worked with Hyde. It worked with Prater. It should work here.

Lomax struggled in the Spring Game, but we're discounting that as a bad day. The job should be his to lose.

The Nickel

Sean Draper (#7, Sophomore, 6'0, 180 lbs., Glenville HS (Cleveland, OH))

Iowa doesn't redshirt cornerbacks, especially when they're needed. And with Lomax out for the season, Draper got his chance to play some special teams and, after playing well there, brief stints at cornerback in late October and early November. He's young, but he's also a three-star recruit at a position where Iowa rarely picks up even modest recruits. In most seasons, that would probably be enough to get him into the top two. This year, that might not be the case. Expect Draper to play significant minutes this year on special teams and in the defensive backfield, get into the starting lineup if there is an injury, and make cornerback one of the first entries in ATP 2014.

While You Wait for the Others

Maurice Fleming (#28, Freshman (RS), 6'0, 188 lbs., Curie Metropolitan HS (Chicago, IL))

Did I mention Iowa doesn't redshirt cornerbacks? Fleming is the exception. He had plenty of accolades and decent offers (Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Indiana, Minnesota) when he came out of Chicago last year, but he is a year away on a depth chart with two sophomores in front. It's a good probem to have now, and so many things can happen between now and 2016 when Fleming would hypothetically step into the top spot without an extended run in the starting lineup.

Desmond King (#30, Freshman, 5'11, 185 lbs., East English Village HS (Detroit, MI))

Welcome to the assembly line, Mr. King. Another three-star defensive back from the Big Ten footprint that was ignored by the local Big Ten programs and had a MAC-heavy offer sheet. It's worked extremely well for Iowa in the past. Exepct what we expect from Iowa freshmen corners: Special teams and spot duty in the rare case of a blowout.

Gavin Smith (#35, Senior (RS), 5'10, 190 lbs., Iowa Central CC/Iowa City West HS)

Smith walked on after a couple of years at Iowa Central, redshirted in 2011, and got into one game last year (Minnesota) on special teams. He's here for depth. If we get to the point where he's a significant factor, this site is going to be on fire.

Dayo Ogundepo (#29, Freshman (RS), 5'10, 191 lbs., East Ridge HS (St. Paul, MN))

Daylight come and me wanna walk on. At least they got a picture of him on the website. It's more than they usually do for redshirting walk-ons.