|27||Jordan Lomax||SR(RS)||5-10/205||Free Safety|
|12||Anthony Gair||JR(RS)||6-2/210||Strong Safety|
|19||Miles Taylor||SO||6-0/195||Strong Safety|
|26||Kevin Ward||SO(RS)||6-1/205||Free Safety|
|37||Brandon Snyder||FR(RS)||6-1/210||Free Safety|
|11||Michael Ojemudia||FR||6-2/190||Strong Safety|
Previously on Assume the Position:
We try to do these in order of certainty. In the summer, there's not much beyond injuries or transfers that can change our perception of any given position; there isn't any depth chart news or any information beyond rumor upon which we can base any changes. That all shifts once Media Day hits, when we get news on Solomon Warfield's transfer and little items like this:
Jordan Lomax says Brandon Snyder now backing him up at FS; Gair backing up Taylor at SS.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) July 30, 2015
Coming out of spring, Snyder had been the fly in the ointment at strong safety. Iowa's decision to move him to free safety (presumably to take over once Lomax graduates next spring) solidifies the one question mark on the depth chart. Safety is now a lock.
The Elder Statesman
Jordan Lomax (#27, Senior (RS), 5'10, 205 lbs., DeMatha Catholic HS (Upper Marlboro, Md.))
We were skeptical of Lomax's chances as a free safety last year, based in large part on Iowa's suspect track record with cornerback converts and equally-suspect success with Maryland recruits. Our fears were largely unfounded. Lomax excelled in his first year at free safety in 2014, recording 92 tackles and an interception, forcing one fumble and earning honorable mention all-conference accolades from the Big Ten coaches. More importantly, he quickly asserted himself as a leader in a young secondary, leadership that will be crucial this year.
Back in 2009, Iowa expanded its recruiting focus on the mid-Atlantic. Since Signing Day 2009, the Hawkeyes have landed ten recruits from the D.C. area. Some never made it to Iowa, some left early, and some have just been star-crossed since they got here. But if Lomax can finish two seasons as an all-conference-level starter, he would likely surpass Marcus Coker as the most successful mid-Atlantic recruit at Iowa in the last decade.
That is, until the next guy.
Miles Taylor (#19, Sophomore, 6'0, 195 lbs., Gonzaga College HS (Silver Spring, Md.))
Taylor was destined for the vacant strong safety position before he'd even committed to Iowa. And now, on the eve of his sophomore year, it looks as if Taylor is poised to become a three-year starter at one of the Iowa defense's most important positions.
Taylor, another mid-Atlantic recruit, had committed to Georgia Tech before Iowa had even offered a scholarship. In the past, a verbal commitment to a comparable program would be an enormous hurdle for Kirk Ferentz's staff, but Taylor was the first example of a new recruiting philosophy. Iowa threw everything it had at Taylor, with three coaches involved in his recruitment over the course of eight months. Georgia Tech slipped -- by late fall, Taylor was saying he hadn't heard from them in weeks -- and Iowa commit Omar Truitt went to work. When Taylor surfaced in Iowa City for a secret visit a week before Signing Day (hosted by Jordan Lomax), it was all over. Iowa had thrown out all of its old gentlemen's agreement bullshit to land a recruit, and it was a safety, a position where Ferentz typically opts for walk-ons. There had to be a reason.
Taylor was one of three incoming freshman to play last season, mostly on special teams. He had four tackles against Northwestern and three more the next week against Minnesota. By the end of the season, he was in the two-deep. And while there was some intrigue during spring practice, Iowa had simply sacrificed too much to get Taylor to have him sit.
While You Wait for the Others
Anthony Gair (#12, Junior (RS), 6'2, 210 lbs., Prestonwood Christian HS (Plano, Tex.))
Let's start with this: Gair looks the part of a strong safety. If Taylor is below 200 pounds at the end of August, he's smaller than any Iowa strong safety since Bob Sanders. That's not a problem for Gair, who is jacked. Gair played in all 13 games last year, earned a start against Pitt and intercepted a pass to ice the victory, and ended up with a handful of tackles. But he was blocked for two years by John Lowdermilk, and has now is maybe possibly probably not in a tie with Taylor. He's entering his fourth year in the program; if the light was truly going to come on, it likely would have happened before now. He could potentially take the free safety position in 2016, but otherwise he's probably blocked barring injury.
Brandon Snyder (#37, Freshman (RS), 6'1, 210 lbs., West Lyon HS (Larchwood, Iowa))
You know how Kirk Ferentz loves to compare players to former players? There's a reason why Snyder has been the dark horse choice for a starting safety position. He's a big, aggressive walk-on safety that, frankly, looks a lot like Sean Considine. He's a former high school quarterback, one of those crucial "football IQ" items for guys like Micah Hyde and Chad Greenway. His high school gave us LeVar Woods (and 2015 offensive line recruit Jake Newborg); Snyder's dad was a coach on Woods' high school teams. He's basically a paint-by-numbers Iowa safety recruit.
The walk-ons and late offers generally end up at free safety in recent years, and we expect nothing different with Snyder. He's the prohibitive favorite to start after Lomax leaves in 2016, and might beat Gair off the bench for any open safety spots this year. But the change in the depth chart last week that we discussed above should preclude him from starting absent injury to Lomax or Taylor.
Kevin Ward (#26, Sophomore (RS), 6'1, 205 lbs., Providence Catholic HS (Homer Glen, Ill.))
Ward, a walk-on whose brother was a highly-regarded offensive line recruit now buried on Iowa's depth chart, looks like a potential special teams contributor this season. But the safety chart is about as loaded as it's been since 2010, and a lot of that talent is young enough to block Ward until he graduates. There might simply be not enough spaces to find him a spot.
Michael Ojemudia (#11, Freshman, 6'2, 190 lbs., Harrison HS (Farmington Hills, Mich.))
Ojemudia, a high school linebacker that Iowa is converting to safety, was a eyebrow-raiser of a recruit: His only other offer was Eastern Michigan, and the idea of converting a "bigger" player into a "faster" position runs counter to everything Iowa has done in player development. But if Phil Parker identifies a guy to play defensive back, we'll defer. With the position change and a need for a few more pounds on his frame, it's an almost-certain redshirt in 2015.