Iowa Football

Kaevon Merriweather returns as a key starter for Iowa football, though at a different position

Michigan State running back Elijah Collins (24) runs from Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather, left, during the firs
Michigan State running back Elijah Collins (24) runs from Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

His ascension came to a sudden halt after one game last season. Ironically it resumed after one game this season.

Funny how things have worked out for Kaevon Merriweather.

The sophomore was Iowa’s starting free safety for the season opener last year against Miami (Ohio). You may not remember that because it was a long time ago.

Then he incurred an injury in practice before the second game against Rutgers that essentially cost him the rest of 2019. Jack Koerner took over the free safety spot and hasn’t let go of it.

“It was definitely hard, seeing somebody else playing the position you were previously in,” Merriweather said. “But, like I said, I kind of looked past that and used that year as a way for me to grow mentally as a player.”

Merriweather played in the Purdue game last season before it was decided he would redshirt. This season’s opener against Purdue saw the Michigan native play sparingly.

But he was back in the starting lineup for Week 2 against Northwestern and continued to be in it for Iowa’s lopsided wins two weeks ago against Michigan State and last week against Minnesota. As a strong safety.

“Basically, I just kind of took that injury as a lesson ... to allow me to grow as a player looking at the game,” Merriweather said. “Especially me, being a player that only had two years of experience in high school, I really just sat back and looked at that year as a way for me to grow and learn the game.

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“Taking everything from Geno, looking at the things Jack was doing ... Just looking at the way offenses were trying to attack us, teams in the Big Ten, so I would be prepared for this year. Then in the summer, I did everything Coach (Phil) Parker asked me to do. I just tried to put myself into a position where I could play and contribute.”

The Geno, by the way, that Merriweather referred to is former Iowa and current Baltimore Ravens safety Geno Stone. With Stone and Amani Hooker, with the Tennessee Titans, Merriweather had some really good players from which to learn.

Hooker was around for Merriweather’s true freshman season, when he played nine games as mostly a special teamer. Another former Hawkeyes safety who has played in the NFL and was a mentor for Merriweather is Jake Gervase.

“Geno and Amani were basically two great people I could look at (playing) behind,” Merriweather said. “My freshman year, Amani, every time I had a chance to ask him a question, especially at the start of camp, if I had a question or something I didn’t know, he was right there to help me. He would always tell me to just watch what I was doing.

“Especially in practice, I put that in the back of my brain, the way he played, the way he would instinctively see things, the way he watched film. Not only Amani, but also Jake. I kind of looked at the things Jake did on the field as well. Then Geno, he was a tremendous player, and I kind of watched the film of him last year. The way that he reacted to plays, the way he saw things. I think those two guys were great people for me to look at, great people for me to play after.”

Merriweather said Parker, Iowa’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, had a talk with him about stepping up his play. Parker told him to hustle to the football, play harder, study more, read his keys better, play a bit faster.

Merriweather took that to heart. He has seven solo tackles and five assisted tackles in his last three games, including a couple where he really put a lick on the opposing ball carrier/receiver.

At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, that’s a major part of his game. Also if you didn’t know, Merriweather was an outstanding basketball player at Belleville High School, one that was likely headed to play for a Division I program somewhere until Parker and Iowa came along and recruited him as a football guy.

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“Basically, when I decided to play football, I came in here just ready to learn,” Merriweather said. “To learn as much as I could. Mentally, I just wanted to be able to understand the game of football, understand as much of the game as I could. In talking to my high school coach, he told me as soon as I stepped through the door (here) to ask as many questions as I could and don’t stop.

“So I think I have taken that mentality, especially going into year three now. I’m still asking questions of Coach Parker about little things on the field that he may see. I’m steady asking questions, I’m steady learning as I go.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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