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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — Iowa defensive backs Riley Moss and Dane Belton had a “fun competition” going this season.
Whoever grabs more interceptions wins.
Moss has four. Belton has five. Moss has one last chance to tie or surpass Belton.
“At first he had me, and then he got hurt a little bit and I broke out,” Belton said.
But that might not be the only “last” for Moss in Saturday’s Citrus Bowl against Kentucky. Iowa’s standout cornerback is considering adding his name to the 2022 NFL Draft, meaning this could be his last game wearing black and gold.
“If it is my last hurrah, this will be the last time with some of my closest buddies,” Moss said ahead of the trip. “It’ll be nice to kind of just hang out with them and go to war with them, one last time potentially.”
Even if Moss stays, it’ll be the last game with the “Doughboyz” secondary. Belton may have NFL opportunities, if he pursues them. Matt Hankins will be out of eligibility. Jack Koerner is a senior, but he could use his extra COVID-19 year in 2022.
Moss, like Koerner, has another year of eligibility available because of COVID-19. But the 6-foot-1 cornerback has done enough to be on the radar of NFL scouts.
After grabbing two interceptions in each of his first three seasons, Moss snatched four interceptions in Iowa’s first six games of 2021. At the time of his injury — it came moments after interception No. 4 — Moss was tied for first in the FBS for interceptions in 2021.
Even after missing about a month of action and not recording an interception in his last four games, Moss was a frequent All-America honoree.
Sporting News gave him first-team honors while the Football Writers Association of America had him as a second-teamer and the Associated Press named him to its third team.
The accolade-and-interception-getting cornerback said the odds of him declaring for the NFL Draft are above 50 percent although he wasn’t sure how much above that halfway mark.
He accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but he can still withdraw his name to retain his NCAA eligibility if he decides to stick around Iowa City for another year.
Moss said the looming decision has not caused any undue stress.
“I look at it as kind of a win-win,” said Moss, an Ankeny Centennial alum. “If I stay, I get to experience Iowa football. This has been my dream since I was a little kid. And then if I leave, I have the potential to also fulfill a dream I’ve always had since I was a little kid.”
As for the timeline for making the decision that he believes has “no wrong answer,” he’s not in a rush.
“I still have a little bit of time to kind of make my decision,” Moss said.
Moss’ success came despite little recruiting attention. 247Sports’ composite rankings had him as the 2,732nd-best recruit in the 2018 recruiting class.
He initially committed to FCS power North Dakota State before instead accepting a grayshirt offer from Iowa shortly before the early signing period.
“What was he, a two-star recruit?” fellow defensive back Kaevon Merriweather said.
Merriweather, who arrived at Iowa at the same time as Moss, is excited to see what his teammate does, whether that’s in an NFL stadium or Kinnick Stadium.
“I’m definitely so proud of him,” Merriweather said. “Seeing where he’s at now — so, so much success — I can’t wait to see what his future has in store for him.”
In the meantime, Moss is looking forward to playing in one last game in 2021.
“It’s more tape I can put out there and show off my ability,” Moss said.
As Moss prepares for what could be the swan song of his collegiate career, his opponent is aware of what the 6-foot-1 corner can do.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, a Penn State transfer, remembers his previous matchup against Moss well.
“He’s instinctive, and he jumps routes well,” Levis said. “It’s a great challenge to have. … I’ll know where No. 31 is.”
Well, No. 33, but close enough.
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