Iowa Football

Iowa football notes: Crazy year at cornerback should lead to crazy competition in 2019

Defensive end Anthony Nelson did get his NFL draft grade and, no, he's not really talking about it

The Iowa Hawkeyes during practice for the 2019 Outback Bowl Friday, December 28, 2018 at the University of Tampa. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)
The Iowa Hawkeyes during practice for the 2019 Outback Bowl Friday, December 28, 2018 at the University of Tampa. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

TAMPA, Fla., — Iowa had a crazy year at cornerback.

Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia started the first four games. Both suffered injuries against Wisconsin. Hankins missed the next five games. Ojemudia didn’t start the next five, but he did play special teams. He was hurt and probably kind of demoted.

True freshmen Riley Moss and Julius Brents took over for five games. After allowing three TDs and a crucial pass interference penalty in a bitter loss at Purdue, Hankins and Ojemudia returned to the lineup. Moss played some nickel corner down the stretch. Brents suffered a few “tweak” injuries and “cycled out,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Friday.

Going into Tuesday’s Outback Bowl against No. 18 Mississippi State (8-4), Hankins and Ojemudia are listed as the starters.

This has basically been a season-long competition.

“It’s tough because we have good corners,” Hankins said. “Everybody is trying to play. You have to come prepared every day. You have to make plays. The fewer mistakes you make, the better. Everyone is going to make mistakes, you just can’t repeat them.”

Brents’ demotion might not have been a demotion.

“He was banged up a little bit,” Parker said. “Opportunity came for the guys who got back and healthy that we had. They got back in routine of things. He didn’t really get benched, he kind of phased out when he got a little tweak here and there and the other guys got back ahead.”

Hankins will be a junior next season. Ojemudia will be a senior and has been mentioned as a potential player for the “star” spot. Brents and Moss will be sophomores. So, Iowa (8-4) does have some depth and the competition should be fierce.

And one more ‘wait and see’ NFL answer

No NFL answers on tight end T.J. Hockenson and safety Amani Hooker. And Friday, you can add defensive end Anthony Nelson to the list.

Nelson did receive his feedback from the NFL draft advisory board.

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“It’s an experience, it’s amazing to even consider that, but right now I’m just focusing on the game,” Nelson said. “That’s what’s been dominating my thoughts the last three weeks. I’ve just been thinking about ways we can beat Mississippi State.”

Maybe head coach Kirk Ferentz gave Nelson some advice during his signing day news conference last week?

“There’s 8 million defensive linemen that are going to go high this year, so if you’re a defensive lineman thinking about coming out, you’d better handicap the field a little bit,” Ferentz said.

Some look ahead

The frustrating part of bowl games for everyone is that it’s the end and the beginning. It’s the end of the 2018 season and the beginning of 2019.

The Iowa staff this week has fielded a few questions about rising players on their roster. On Friday, defensive coordinator Phil Parker mentioned freshman defensive back Kaevon Merriweather.

“He’s really done a good job,” Parker said. “He’s got a good skill set. He’s really young as a football player. In high school, he was more of a basketball player who switched over. I think his skill set is getting better everyday.”

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz mentioned tight end Shaun Beyer. The former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep suffered a leg injury and will miss the Outback Bowl.

Wide receivers Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini also have come up a few times.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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