The secondary is an interesting position group for the Iowa football team because they are having to replace All-American safety Amani Hooker and senior captain Jake Gervase, but they also have a seriously strong bunch of young players vying for playing time. Heck, just looking at who would replace Amani Hooker when he initially declared, we listed six guys.
We’re going to attempt to break the safety position out into three spots, similar to what Iowa predominantly did this past season with the “cash” position being the spot Amani Hooker vacated.
There should be no surprises for the top four guys at corner considering Hankins and Ojemudia were the starters coming into the season, but Moss and Brents played a significant amount of snaps and had a relative amount of success. Brents, however, is too good to leave on the bench which you’ll see in our breakout below.
- Matt Hankins – Low-key, Hankins is a fantastic coverage corner that is underappreciated to the max. He started in eight games this season and was out for five due to injury/suspension but he has the potential to break out in his junior season just like a certain Josh Jackson or Desmond King did.
- Riley Moss – Moss may catch a lot of flack for his performance in Purdue, but he had no business being left in the game that long. Regardless, his performance throughout the season, no matter how inconsistent, showed a ton of promise for a preferred walk-on true freshman. I expect big things as the second-string corner in year two for Moss.
- Kaevon Merriweather – Merriweather, a three-star safety in the class of 2018, burned through his potential redshirt this past season when he ended up seeing action in nine games. The Hawks are pretty diligent and smart about using up guys’ eligibility. The fact that they were willing to lose a year of his speaks volumes of his play. At this point now, he’s my front runner for the strong safety position.
- Dallas Craddieth – Craddieth was the highest rated recruit in the class of 2018 but never got a chance to see the field. With a full year under his belt, I fully expect him to be in the intense safety competition, but Merriweather’s experience will be too much for the redshirt freshman St. Louis.
- Geno Stone – Stone’s emergence last season is not talked about enough as one of the reasons the Hawks moved to a 4-2-5. He was too good to keep on the bench. With both Amani Hooker and Jake Gervase gone, Stone is the leader of the safety group. What can he do as an encore to leading the team in interceptions with 4?
- John Milani – Milani is a former walk-on safety whose primary responsibility on the Iowa football team has been with the special teams unit. There are a ton of guys gunning for his spot, but his experience with the Hawks will be invaluable with such a young group of safeties.
- Michael Ojemudia – This is probably the biggest surprise on my depth chart, and it is also one of the biggest questions entering 2019. Who can play Amani Hooker’s “cash” role? While there are a few younger guys who could be in line to take the spot here, Ojemudia is my sleeper pick to start here because I don’t think he is going to beat out Julius Brents for the other corner spot. The redshirt senior has the size (6’1” 199 pounds) and tackling ability to man this role, and he played a little linebacker in high school.
- DJ Johnson – As we noted in our guys who could replace Amani Hooker article above, Johnson has been rumored to be in line for the starting “cash” role. That being said, he couldn’t get on the field last year due to injuries, and I think all things equal, the Hawks will take Ojemudia’s experience over Johnson’s in such a pivotal defensive position.
- Julius Brents – The future is very bright for this guy. As just a true freshman, the former four-star corner was ranked as the second best cover corner in the entire nation part way through his first year in Iowa City. The ranking was based on yards allowed per coverage snap. He did ultimately lose his job to Ojemudia at the end of the season, but Kirk has stated multiple times that this is an ongoing competition, and it’s one of the positions that we noted will be one of the most intriguing battles.
- Michael Ojemudia – If Ojemudia loses to Brents, he will be the next guy up, but as noted above, I think the Iowa football team will find another spot for him.