Freshmen D-backs make impact for Hawkeyes

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa’s last two opponents have showed up in four and five wide-receiver sets, gashing the Hawkeyes for a total of 937 yards.

The prolific offenses Iowa has faced are forcing the team to insert some special defensive packages of its own, away from the basic 4-3 defensive scheme that has been a staple of Hawkeye defense for years.

Two true freshmen cornerbacks — Sean Draper and Kevin Buford — have seen game action to counter the plethora of receivers opposing offenses are showing. And while the statistics haven’t been pretty, teammates say the youngsters are holding their own.

“They’re not making the same mistakes twice, which is all you can ask for young guys,” cornerback Micah Hyde said. “They just go out and compete and learn from their mistakes.”

The Iowa defense found itself in “nickel” and “dime” packages — where there are either five or six defensive backs on the defense, respectively — against Northwestern on Oct. 27 in order to counter the numerous Wildcat wide receivers on the field.

Neither Draper nor Buford has been a liability on the Hawkeye defense, and each has shown promise on a position group that will lose seniors Hyde and Greg Castillo after the season.

Draper has solidified himself as the fourth Hawkeye corner after Hyde, Castillo, and junior B.J. Lowery. The Cleveland native is contributing on special teams, too. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said that Draper’s play has caught his eye, at corner and on kick coverage.

“As a coach, you watch those things and you say, ‘Here’s a guy that’s doing some good things, too,’” Ferentz said.  “Those are the little things we’re looking for. In Sean’s case, he’s done a nice job on special teams, and he’s competing out there hard at corner when he gets out there.”

Iowa players aren’t expressing the same surprise their coach is, though. Both Lowery and Hyde saw significant playing time as true freshmen. They said getting thrown into the fire at a young age comes with the defensive-back territory.

“As a freshman coming in, my position coach was [Phil] Parker,” Hyde said. “He told us we might not be starting right away, but that we’ll be in on nickel and dime coverage. He did a good job of letting the young guys know they’ll be playing. You have to prepare like you’re a starter.”

Lowery also said he sees a little of himself when the freshmen are alongside him on the field.

“It’s funny because we were all out there our freshman year,” Lowery said. “As long as you go to film with them and give them pointers and tips, they’ll be all right. I was nervous, I think I stepped in and did all right whenever I came in.”

While neither Draper nor Buford has yet to record any statistics, Hyde said their current performance is a good indicator of what’s to come in the Hawkeye defensive backfield of the future.

“They’re our two freshmen so they take crap from us, but since they got here they’ve been ready to learn,” He said. ”They literally had summer workouts and a couple weeks of camp, next thing you know they’re playing division-I Big Ten Football. Everyone makes the same mistakes, and they’re learning from them.”

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