CEDAR RAPIDS - When the IHSSCA boys' soccer rankings were released early Tuesday, some wondered if Cedar Rapids Prairie might stand atop all others in Class 3A.
The undefeated Hawks - slotted second behind defending state champion but twice ... »
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No. 44 . . . Anthony Gair, a 6-2, 200-pound sophomore from Plano, Texas, doesn’t have a lot of resume. Last season was just his redshirt freshman year. He wasn’t going to beat out senior Tanner Miller. Strong safety was contained to John Lowdermilk and Nico Law. So, he realistically wasn’t going to see much from scrimmage. Gair did, however, play on several special teams units and saw action in all 13 games. So, yes, short resume. He’s a third-year sophomore, so the question is do you consider him behind the development curve? You could make a case for either side. When free safety came open this spring, junior Jordan Lomax, a converted cornerback, was immediately names starter. As a sitting free safety, that probably got Gair’s attention. On the other hand, with experienced safeties ahead of him, he still did see playing time on special teams in ‘13. That says he’s on the right path, just not a starting path at the moment.
Safety dance . . . This spring, defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker thought he wouldn’t have to depend on true freshmen to pop up on the depth chart at safety. Of course then, Law was still on Iowa’s roster (remember Ruben Lile?). He has since announced a transfer in the wake of a disorderly conduct arrest. So, instead of a veteran four — Lomax, Lowdermilk, Law and Gair — it’s the three. As far as depth goes, there are a couple of avenues. We don’t really know if any walk-ons are ready to show up. Sophomore David Tann and redshirt freshman Kevin Ward might be poised to move up a rung on the depth chart. Red-shirt freshmen Malik Rucker and Solomon Warfield were originally tagged as safety prospects in recruiting before moving to corner at Iowa. Incoming freshmen Jalen Embry and Miles Taylor could have a chance to be top four. We’re throwing names out there right now. It could go the other way. Gair could be the insurance policy at both safety spots. (One more name that has kind of risen this spring is sophomore Greg Mabin. For now, it feels as though Parker is happy with him at corner.)
Special teams factor . . . Gair counted here for Iowa last season. That’s an overlooked contribution. Iowa is looking to muscle up in coverage. Here’s a snippet of what special teams coordinator Chris White said he’s looking for in special teams drills: “That’s all we’re doing right now this spring [in April] is trying to evaluate in competition drills and in space guys who can what I call transition from speed to balance. You’ve got to be running full speed and then all of a sudden there’s got to be a point in time where you need to transition from going 100 miles an hour to be making a left‑ and right‑hand turn. We call it ‘long stride, short stride.’ Long stride, as fast as you can, then you’ve got to start short stride and drop your weight. It’s interesting the drills we set up, you can really identify guys who can transition right from speed to balance and guys who can’t, who struggle with it, and that’s the hardest thing you do. You’ve got to find out the top guys who can do that.”
Outlook . . . Spring ended with Lomax seemingly having a great handle on the free safety position. A good spot for Gair might be positioning himself as the No. 2 at both spots (or the third safety, the guy who goes in no matter who’s hurt). Also, can Gair earn his way into playing time in nickel-dime situations? If health holds up and Lomax does indeed run off with the free safety spot, Gair’s best move could be to position himself as Iowa’s No. 1 strong safety in 2015.
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