Free safety position not completely new for Hyde


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Micah Hyde didn’t have any objections when he was told he would practice at free safety this spring.

That might surprise some — this is the same Micah Hyde who finished 2010 with arguably his best performance at cornerback.

The junior-to-be earned Insight Bowl Defensive Player of the Game honors after recording six tackles and returning an interception 72 yards for the game-winning touchdown in Iowa’s 27-24 victory over Missouri.

Still, Hyde welcomed the change.

“The first thing I said is, ‘OK. It’s best for the team,’ ” he said April 8. “There were never any doubts in my head, like, ‘I wish I was still at corner.’ I’m just happy to still be on this team and able to help out.”

But consider Hyde’s history, and one can see why he reacted that way: The position isn’t totally new for him.

He excelled at free safety, among other positions, at Fostoria (Ohio) High School. His high-school coach, Thomas Grine — who lettered as a tight end at Iowa from 1974-76 — said he initially stuck Hyde there because of his athleticism.

“We kind of wanted him being the deepest guy on the field in case somebody broke through,” Grine said. “There weren’t too many kids he couldn’t hawk down back there.”

That didn’t mean Hyde didn’t mature into a pretty darn good safety. Grine called him a “student of the game.”

“He got to where he read the offensive linemen pretty good to determine pass and run,” Grine said. “He did a nice job of communicating, checking in and out of coverages.”

“I think he’ll do fine back there if that’s what [Iowa defensive-back coach] Phil Parker wants him to do.”

Still, the shift has forced some adjustments on Hyde’s part after playing corner the last two seasons.

While he said he still receives some reps in that role to keep his knowledge of the position fresh, he’s primarily worked his new assignment.

That’s meant Hyde has had to return to those high-school roots. The biggest change is making the run-pass read — which he must make to determine if the offense is running or passing on a particular play.

“As corner you have to do that, but you’re on the outside. It’s different,” Hyde said. “Safety, you’re in the middle. You have to read the line, read the quarterback, read the running back, and the receivers, too. You have to read everything.”

If the defense has experienced any hiccups this spring because of the shift, teammates haven’t noticed.

“We play Iowa defense,” said sophomore linebacker James Morris. “It doesn’t really matter how we move guys around. Guys are going to do their job, the job assigned to them.

“Micah will do a great job wherever he is, and we’re a better team with him on the field.”

Iowa may test out exactly how well Hyde plays “wherever.” Hyde told Grine he’s gotten looks at punt and kickoff returns.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz highlighted that possibility immediately after the Insight Bowl. The 13th-year head coach reflected on Hyde’s pick-six in that game, as well as his 66-yard interception return touchdown against Michigan State last October.

“After the Michigan State game … it came back to me we might have to move him to offense, except we don’t have enough guys on defense,” Ferentz said after the Insight Bowl. “He is a very skilled athlete. Had good ball skills in high school, good returnability ... So we may have to get him a little bit more involved in those areas.”

If he does receive an opportunity to play on returns — or anywhere else, for that matter — he’ll be ready.

Said Hyde: “Wherever the coaches put me, I’ll be there trying to make plays.”

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