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Nico lays down the Law for Hawkeye secondary

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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Damon Bullock took the snap from James Vandenberg and darted through a hole on the right side of the offensive line.

He ran right toward safety Nico Law.

That was a mistake.

Contact during spring practices is supposed to be limited to protect all involved from injury. But rules be damned.

Law knocked Bullock's helmet off. It bounced around, ricocheting off linemen and eventually rolling downfield as the sophomore running back disappeared under a pile of black jerseys.

Law received an ovation from the several thousands fans at Iowa's open practice session on April 14, and he casually walked back to the line of scrimmage as while Bullock picked up his helmet and jogged to the sideline.

"He's an aggressive guy," defensive coordinator Phil Parker said during a press conference last week. "That's why we recruited him; he was aggressive on film, and he likes to run around a lot. He's going to be around the ball."

And true to form, the sophomore safety from Maryland was everywhere during the Hawkeyes' weekend scrimmage in Kinnick Stadium. His hit on Bullock drew the most obvious fan appreciation, but he also raised eyebrows by drilling tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz — who, at 6-7 and 265 pounds, is half a foot and 70 pounds bigger than Law.

But he wasn't perfect — namely, he was responsible for a pass-interference call that called back what would have been a B.J. Lowery interception.

"We made some plays, but we also made some mistakes," senior cornerback Micah Hyde said. "[There were] some knick-knack things the offense got on us that we have to pick up. It's all about communicating, and we didn't do that very well on a couple plays."

But if Hyde, Law, Lowery, and safety Tanner Miller get on the same page, they could easily make up a unit that would serve as a strength on a defense that lost six starters from last year's team.

Hyde and Miller are the most veteran of the group, having started the vast majority of the games in 2011. Hyde started all 13; Miller got his first nod against Pittsburgh in the third game of the season and stayed in the starting lineup the rest of the year. The pair combined for 148 tackles and 6 interceptions, and Miller brought one back for a 98-yard touchdown against Northwestern.

Lowery didn't start last season but played in eight games — all in the latter half of the season after he returned from a hand injury — and showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time. His breakup in the end zone on the last play of Iowa's game against then-No. 16 Michigan iced the Hawkeyes' 24-16 upset.

And if Law keeps laying the truck stick on receivers and running backs, he'll seamlessly fill the gap left by the departed hard-hitting Jordan Bernstine.

Cornerback appears to be a position of particular depth. Hyde and Lowery are listed as the first-teamers now, but second-teamers Jordan Lomax and Greg Castillo saw time during the scrimmage and made a string of plays — big hits, shutdown coverage, breakups, and an interception — that drew applause from the fanbase.

"Keep our fingers crossed, but we have a chance to have four guys who are playing pretty capably right now," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're obviously counting on Micah, but I think B.J. is ready to step in there [too]."

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.


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