CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Titans and Sioux Falls Storm have met in the conference title game in each of the past four seasons.
If the Titans have any hope to make it five, they will need to dig out of an ever-increasing hole.
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No. 4 ... If you think about it, Desmond King kind of saved Iowa’s secondary. Actually, there’s no “kind of” to it.
Coming in from last season as a true freshman from Detroit, King quietly moved up the depth chart during fall camp. When starting cornerback Jordan Lomax suffered a hamstring injury in the opener against Northern Illinois, King jumped in and hung in for 12 starts, becoming the first true freshman to start at corner for the Hawkeyes since 2002.
If not King, now a 5-10, 190-pound sophomore, then who would’ve replaced Lomax? It probably would’ve been Sean Draper, who could be the starter opposite King this season. At the time, King stepped in and was exactly what the Hawkeyes needed.
“You never know what a guy’s going to do in competition,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “For him, as a true freshman, to walk in there and do what he did and perform like he did, at a very tough position, it’s really admirable of him.”
29 picks as a prep ... King is from Detroit and graduated from East English Village High School, which plays in the area’s Public School League. In football, the PSL has a reputation for running the football.
And, somehow, King set the Michigan high school record with 29 interceptions.
“You can’t fake 29 interceptions,” said Josh Helmholdt, midwest recruiting coordinator for rivals.com. “He plays in the PSL and that league doesn’t throw the ball around the field like a lot of other leagues. You can’t fake 29 interceptions. That’s an outstanding number. It really speaks to just his feel for the position, his knack in pass coverage and I do think he is a great, late pickup for the Hawkeyes.”
King broke into the East Village starting lineup as a sophomore. He wasn’t big, so that kind of made him a target.
“I played cornerback and I guess they thought I was a smaller guy, and I was very small in high school, so they thought they had an advantage throwing against a smaller guy to a veteran receiver,” King said.
So, 29 interceptions. When did opponents figure out it wasn’t a good idea to test him?
“I believe after my junior, they figured out it was tragic throwing the ball over there,” King said.
Third time was a charm ... Recruiting has been a hot topic this offseason. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has mentioned the idea of no signing day. When a recruit decides, he signs and the chase is over. Pelini made clear that was his opinion and it’s not a notion he’s officially put up for vote in any coaches gatherings.
Recruiting will continue to evolve. When will it end? Never probably.
“Non-commitable offers or ‘I’m kind of committed,’” it’s an insurance policy,” Ferentz said in Chicago. ”When the early commitments began, my suspicion was some smart guy is going to figure out take the best offer you’ve got in August. That way, if you get hurt, you’re covered and then you can reopen it up in December.
“Now, instead of people just doing it discretely, they say they’re doing it. When a prospect chooses to do that, then we have to make a decision do we want to continue recruiting that prospect? The question you have to ask yourself, if he flips and commits to you in December, what’s he going to do in January? It’s an interesting world, the world of recruiting. Hang on.”
That’s a roundabout into King’s recruitment. It started with a commitment to Central Michigan in February 2012, before his senior year. And then, he committed to Ball State.
“The Central Michigan coaches were cool. That my first offer and I was in a rush,” King said. “It was the first college offer I had. I thought more offers would come. Ball State came and I thought there was a home there.”
Then, Iowa offered, so did Indiana and Wisconsin. It came down to Ball State (Muncie, Ind.) and Iowa.
“I just felt that Iowa would be the best fit for me as far as having a support system here,” King said. “Ball State was closer, but coming here, I knew a couple of guys from Detroit, like [senior DT] Carl Davis and [senior WR] Kevonte Martin-Manley, and they would have my back if anything went wrong.”
If nothing else, there’s a little insight into the speed of the options flying at prospects and how their decision-making might work.
Outlook ... King showed defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker what he needed to see, which is a willing combatant against the run.
“I felt at that time [in camp last August] he showed great toughness, great quickness,” Parker said. “He has good leverage and change of direction, and then he just had an instinct of what was going on. Nothing seemed to bother him.”
If the move to a Big Ten school made King nervous, he didn’t show it.
“I walked in and I didn’t want to be too surprised or overwhelmed by anything that’s out here,” King said. “Back at my high school, we didn’t have anything like this. It was just a practice field and we had our games on it and everything, so I wanted to keep cool, calm and collected and make everything better.”
With 12 tackles at Ohio State, King punctuated the toughness point and earned Iowa’s first Big Ten freshman of the week honor. King finished sixth on the team last year with 69 tackles. He also had eight pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Iowa’s secondary is asked to play the role of run force quite a bit. King’s willingness to hit probably opened eyes as much as anything.
“Our defense, we very much want to stop the run,” King said. “Our cornerbacks, we’re heavy on tackling. We really need our DBs to come up more and contribute in our run defense.”
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