IOWA CITY -- Position changes aren't as easy as you might think.
For Micah Hyde, the switch from cornerback to safety started as a conversation with his position coach Phil Parker. Then, Parker called his mom, Pam Hampton. She asked Hyde's brother, Marcus, what he thought. Of course, Marcus was a three-year starting safety at Michigan State.
So, it's not just moving a kid's name and dry cementing it underneath a different spot on the depth chart. There's a certain feeling out process. The player has to buy in to what the coaches are selling.
Hyde, who's going into his junior season for the Hawkeyes, seems to be OK with it, so far. He relishes the mental challenge the free safety position demands. Friday, he called it the quarterback of the defense.
Safeties need to know the whole defense to get defenders lined up across the board. Also, the read run-pass skills are different at safety than they are at corner.
Hyde is doing his homework this spring.
"I think it's really helping me out as a football player, because I know what other people are doing around me instead of just my own position," Hyde said. "It's a big responsibility."
Hyde picked off four passes last season as a sophomore cornerback, his first year as a starter. He also broke up seven passes and made 82 tackles, which was second on the team. He seemed to be on the track for a three-year run at corner.
But Iowa lost both safeties from last season, with free safety Brett Greenwood graduating and Tyler Sash moving on to the NFL. That left sophomore Tanner Miller as the only returning safety with any real game experience. And Miller is a true sophomore who's sitting out spring after shoulder surgery this winter.
Iowa has more corners than safeties. Right now, sophomore B.J. Lowery is in Hyde's old position, alongside senior Shaun Prater, who earned first-team all-Big Ten last season. Beyond Lowery, there's Greg Castillo and incoming freshmen Torrey Campbell and Jordan Lomax, both potential corners.
Iowa needs a starter and needs some depth at saftey. Hyde can provide both.
"We can put this guy anywhere," senior cornerback Shaun Prater said. "I'm playing corner and I see Micah back there doing backpedal and breaking sometimes, he just makes it look so easy. Honestly, he's doing well and I see good things coming from him at that position."
This is spring, so nothing is set in stone. Right now, Iowa's secondary is Prater and Lowery at the corners, with Hyde and a rotation at strong safety which includes seniors Tom Donatell, Nick Nielsen and Jordan Bernstine. Miller might have a chance to push for that job when he returns.
Hyde doesn't know for sure if he's renting or buying at free safety.
"You know as much as I do, honestly," he said. "As of right now, it's best for me to play free safety. That's all I know. That's why I'm doing it. I can't tell you what's going to happen a year and a half from now, next fall. I might go down to D-line, you never know. This is the best for right now."
Another facet of Hyde's game that emerged last season was his ability with the football in his hands.
After Sash picked off a Kirk Cousin's pass in the Michigan State game, Hyde took a lateral and zig zagged through the Spartans for a 66 yards for a score. In the Insight Bowl, Hyde picked off Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and made five cutbacks before finding the opposite sideline and scoring the game-winner from 72 yards out.
"When he's running it back against Michigan State,I was thinking about offense even then," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But weneed him on defense obviously. He's really done agood job there."
And before you ask, no, there hasn't been any conversation about wide receiver.
"No, [coaches] haven't messed around with it," Hyde said. "We have our receivers. They're good receivers. I go against them everyday. They beat me, I beat them. It's a competition everyday. As of right now, there's no talk about about it."
But he does think about it. And why not? At Fostoria High School, he was named Ohio Division IV offensive player of the year, northwest Ohio offensive player of the year and first-team all-state. Hyde holds or shares 24 school records on offense at Fostoria. including 46 rushing touchdowns, 425 points, 977 pass attempts, 606 pass completions, 7,846 passing yards, 65 touchdown passes and 10,755 total yards over his three and a half years of starting for the Redmen.
So, yeah, he knows what he's doing with the football in his hands.
"Of course. playing quarterback in high school, I've always thought about having the ball in my hands," Hyde said. "Defense is cool with me. I played that in high school. I've played it here and have fallen in love with it."
OK, no on wide receiver, but punt return is being tossed around. Hyde has caught a couple during spring practice, but nothing serious, at least not yet.
A lot of free safeties return punts, too. Just saying.
Here are some extra quotes for this story:
I think it's really helping me out as a football player, because I know what other people are doing around me instead of just my own position. It's a big responsibility. It's working out pretty good.
When it first happened, coaches told me it's what's best for the team and that's what I should do, that's all I'm there for. -- coaches idea -- They came to me and asked how I felt about playing it. Whatever helps out the team. They said, yeah, that's what we want you to do. -- Talked to after he got back from winter break -- It's a process. He mentioned something about it a while ago, about being a backup, but this just recently happened.
NFL more natural safety -- I have no say in that. That's what the coaches are for. They put me in the position that would be the best for me. I'm hoping that would be the case, but as of right now, I'm trying to get better and this position change helps out the team.
Bro safety -- When coach called my mom a while back, I think it was around spring break, he told her I was moving to safety. My mom talked to my brother and he said it's a good position. I played it in high school. I'm used to being back there. He said he's OK with it and likes the decision.
How's it diff -- You've got to know what the whole defense is doing at all times. You have to know your reads. At corner, you had to do some of that, too, but there are a lot more responsibilities at free safety. It's like the middle linebacker, the quarterback of the defense. -- film -- Corner is a lot of film, too, but safety is a lot of reading run or pass.
Who's strong -- I couldn't tell you who the No. 1 strong is. We're switching out every single day. (Tommy, Nick, Bernstine) -- He switches it all up.
Punt return -- I've been catching some back there, but nothing serious. A couple of us have been back there.
New guys on D -- A lot of people think it's such a big deal we have a lot of new guys on defense, but our system here is used to throwing guys in when we need them. Like coach Doyle with the lifting, he starts from the bottom and builds you up. This whole system that Iowa brings, when you come here, you get better but it's a process. Some people might be surprised, we have some young people in right now, but not me, not the rest of the team. We're used to it.
On Prater -- Prater is a playmaker. He brings a lot of energy to the team. If you came to practice and watched us, Prater is the one running around. He's like the Energizer Bunny, he's everywhere. He's a ball hawk. He's a good person, too. I was excited he was coming back.
Safety permanent -- You know as much as I do, honestly. As of right now, it's best for me to play free safety. That's all I know. That's why I'm doing it. I can't tell you what's going to happen a year and a half from now, next fall. I might go down to D-line, you never know. This is the best for right now.
NFL -- Maybe next year, I'll get back to that, after I'm done talking to coach Parker see how everything is going with my future. But as of right now, I'm just trying to get better and learn the position first. Honestly, there's a lot that goes into it. There's a lot of learning you have to do before you get out on the field.Two touches -- WR -- No, they haven't messed around with it. We have our receivers. They're good receivers. I go against them everyday. They beat me, I beat them. It's a competition everyday. As of right now, there's no talk about about it. -- Have you thought about it? -- Of course. playing quarterback in high school, I've always thought about having the ball in my hands. Defense is cool with me. I played that in high school. I've played it here and have fallen in love with it.