Stop me if you've heard this one before... a young defensive back not on the depth chart is transferring out of Iowa. Didn't I just write this story a few weeks ago? Oh, right, I did. Two weeks ago it was Ohio-area prep safety Solomon Warfield leaving Iowa City; now it's Detroit prep defensive back Jalen Embry who's departing. Holy deja vu.
As we said when Warfield left, this move isn't entirely surprising -- Embry was nowhere to be found on the most recent depth charts for the defensive backfield and there probably wasn't a lot of immediate playing time in the offing at cornerback when three of the four guys listed on that aforementioned depth chart are juniors (Desmond King, Greg Mabin, and Maurice Fleming). Embry's departure doesn't figure to have a big impact on Iowa this year -- he redshirted in 2014 and hadn't actually played a snap for Iowa and barring a massive injury outbreak in the secondary, he wasn't likely to see the field beyond special teams this year.
But this departure is another blow to Iowa's depth in the backfield and it brings with it some very real concerns about Iowa's secondary in the not-too-distant future. At this point, the only non-walk on, non-junior or senior defensive backs on Iowa's roster are true freshman Michael Ojemudia (who seems like a safety-in-training), sophomore Miles Taylor (Iowa's starting strong safety), sophomore Kevin Ward (who also looks a bit safety-ish), and redshirt freshman Omar Truitt. 2016 commit Emmanuel Rugamba is eyeing a spot in the secondary and it's not hard to see why when you look at the depth chart beyond the 2016 season.
Still, we have plenty of recent experience with how damaging a lack of decent depth at a position can be. The running back situation has been such a mess for so long that Iowa went three years with a converted fullback as their primary rusher. Attrition among young linebacker prospects (and some whiffs in recruiting) left Iowa with three freshman starters last year, with unsurprisingly dire results. Similar issues have turned offensive tackle into this year's terror-inducing position. Defensive back isn't quite there just yet, but things could get very problematic in a few years if the attrition at the position doesn't slow down. Phil Parker has been a wizard with cornerbacks during his tenure at Iowa and we trust him more than any other Iowa coach to mold the materials he's handed into credible players, but it would be nice to have something back there for him to work with in 2017 beyond completely raw freshmen or walk-ons.
As noted above, Embry didn't play so much as a single snap for Iowa, so we have no way of knowing how good he was -- or how could he could have been. But he was one of Iowa's higher-regarded recruits in the 2014 class, a mid-to-high 3* prospect who chose Iowa over offers from Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and about half the MAC. On paper, he looked like he could be a quality contributor for Iowa, particularly after the cornerback depth chart cleared out in 2017. In reality... well, if he does become a quality contributor, it will be for someone other than Iowa. Good luck to Embry at his next step and hopefully I get to stop writing posts like this for a while.