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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THE DEPTH CHART
1. Maurice Fleming, so., 6-0, 200 OR Sean Draper, jr., 6-0, 190; 2. Greg Mabin, so., 6-2, 195
1. Desmond King, so., 5-11, 190; 2. Malik Rucker, fr., 6-0, 175
1. Jordan Lomax, jr., 5-10, 200; 2. Anthony Gair, so., 6-2, 200 OR Solomon Warfield, fr., 6-0, 180
1. John Lowdermilk, sr., 6-2, 210; 2. Kevin Ward, fr., 6-1, 205
Jalen Embry, fr., 6-0, 184; Jake Gervase, fr., 6-1, 195; Joshua Jackson, fr., 6-1, 175; Marcel Joly, fr., 5-11, 180; Brandon Snyder, fr., 6-1 190; Miles Taylor, fr., 6-0. 185; Omar Truitt, fr., 5-11, 180
Desmond King became a surprise entry in Iowa’s season opener last year. King, then a true freshman, replaced an injured Jordan Lomax at cornerback and then failed to relinquish the spot when Lomax returned healthy.
King, a Detroit native, was the first Iowa true freshman to start in Iowa’s secondary since 2002. He put up solid numbers with 69 tackles, including 44 solo stops, and he had three tackles for loss. He also broke up eight passes and recovered a pair of turnovers. At Ohio State, he recorded 12 tackles, including 10 solos. King finished with 12 starts and earned various preseason honors entering the fall.
Several publications have taken notice. He was a first-team member of BTN’s all-freshman team and Athlon named him a third team freshman All-American.
“It’s not something we foresaw even in camp,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We were pleased with the way he practiced and did some good things. You just never know what a guy’s going to do in game competition. For him as a true freshman to walk in there and do what he did and perform the way he did, a very tough position, it’s really admirable of him. Hopefully he’ll continue to improve too. That is one good thing about young players, all players have a chance to improve. Younger guys can, I think, make more strides.”
THE OTHER GUY
Jordan Lomax entered the last two seasons with high expectations but injuries derailed his hopes both times. After playing as a true freshman, Lomax injured his shoulder before the 2012 season and red-shirted. Last year, he started the opener but suffered a hamstring injury and became a valuable backup and special teamer.
This year, Iowa moved Lomax to free safety and the reviews are sterling thus far.
“I think he’s a very smart kid, very dedicated,” said Iowa defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker. “He’s got great leadership skills. He studies the game. I’m looking for a lot of good things to happen for him.
“He has a lot to do. It’s a totally different position than it was last year. It think might even help him a little bit, more of an inside-the-box run player at times. He needs get more vocal and be more a commander back in the secondary. He’s a very physical guy.”
Lomax played in nine games last year, registering five tackles and two pass breakups. He’s an attacking player in the run game, which belies the pass-first free safety position. He’s also fast. In high school he ran the opening leg of a 4x400 squad that won the 2011 indoor national title.
“He’s extremely physical, he’s really tough,” Iowa strong safety John Lowdermilk said. “He’ll stick his head in there and he’s also extremely athletic, obviously moving from corner. He was a great track runner in high school so he was extremely athletic. He’s really intelligent, too, which goes a long way in the safety spot.”
THE NEW GUYS
Iowa has a fierce competition at the cornerback slot opponent King. Sophomore Maurice Fleming, a Chicagoland athlete who started his Iowa career playing wide receiver, competes against junior Sean Draper, who hails from Cleveland. Fleming played sparingly on special teams last year but caused a fumble against Western Michigan. Draper has played in 20 games at Iowa and has 11 tackles and two career pass breakups.
On the depth chart behind King, Fleming and Draper entering fall camp are sophomore Greg Mabin and red-shirt freshman Malik Rucker. Red-shirt freshmen Kevin Ward and Solomon Warfield and sophomore Anthony Gair are the second-team safeties entering camp.
Iowa does lack proven depth across the board, however. Strong safety Niko Law transferred to Towson this summer, which likely gives one of the five incoming true freshman defensive backs a chance to contribute right away like King did last year.
“You hope there are so me good stories that will emerge, be it older guys, might be a senior, might be a guy that’s in his second year or it might be a true freshman,” Ferentz said. “Those are things that we’ll really try to keep a keen eye out for as camp goes on.”
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