CORNERBACK B.J. LOWERY
Arrival: Iowa's roster forced six freshmen into the 2010 season opener against Eastern Illinois. During the week's run up to the game, Lowery, a 5-11. 188-pounder, worked his way into the six who played. Iowa's roster needed the boost from freshmen, mostly for special teams purposes.
Special teams has forced a ton of true freshmen into the game early the last two seasons, with 10 last year and nine in '10. Does that happen again this year? Probably.
Lowery played in seven games as a true freshman and made five tackles. A broken wrist suffered during camp last fall kept Lowery out of the lineup for the first five games. He needed a cast (left wrist) when he made it back, but the more Lowery played the more noticeable he was.
He finished '12 with 12 tackles, three passes broken up and a sack.
Of course, you all know Lowery for the Michigan play. The above is the result. The front side of this scene the moment before shows perfect coverage. The back view? That shows Lowery's arm around Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree's waist. Better to have that arm locked low than high.
No flag. Iowa wins.
“At first he [Roundtree] came off like he was going to block me, but he eventually ran a slant,” Lowery said. “I stuck my hand in there and knocked it out.”
Lowery brings energy, an asset that's better appreciated when you all of the sudden notice it.
“You should see him in practice, he’s making plays like he did on the goal line all the time,” former Hawkeye and current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Shaun Prater said. “In practice, he covers Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis. I think he has a lot of confidence.”
2012 Takeoff: Why is Lowery, a first-year starter who missed five games the previous season, so high on this list?
It goes back to what first-year defensive coordinator Phil Parker said in the spring. Parker, Iowa's secondary coach for 13 seasons before being promoted last February, discussed a more aggressive approach in the secondary, specifically playing corners in press (man-to-man) coverage and allowing safeties to help in run defense.
Parker doesn't want to leave the D-line exposed. He has a three-year starter in Micah Hyde at one corner and Lowery, who has a short but promising resume.
"One thing about it, we play a seven-man box a lot of times, so we can cheat a guy down, help him out, put a little more pressure on the corners a little bit on Micah Hyde, and B.J. and [Greg] Castillo," Parker said. "It looks like they took the challenge, so they’re going to be exposed a little bit more. We’ll try to get another guy down there to help him out, all depending on the situation. Try to add a guy or move a guy up front a little bit. That’s what we’re going to try to do."
Remember, this is football. This statement came during the spring session. This could be a smokescreen. Logically, the dots connect.
"Every corner thinks they can play man every down, and they’ve done a good job," Parker said, "but it’s not a game situation yet. It’s still practice. We’ve still got to wait to be seen yet.
". . . I think we have some talented corners who can take that challenge on and they might be better press guys than they are off guys. So, it will have to vary and mix it up depending on situations in the game where you’re at, and how you want to play them.
"But definitely, when you get up there and press them, it lets the safeties be free, run to the ball and help in the box a little bit more."
One more tidbit on Lowery is his real first name. It's Fernando, named after his father. The "B" comes from "Boots," his father's nickname back in his hometown Cincinnati (or as he calls it "Nasty Natti"). The "J" is for Junior.“I’m thinking about changing it,” Lowery said of his first name Fernando.