True freshmen role players for Iowa


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During Iowa’s 28-14 win over Missouri State last weekend, true freshman cornerback Desmond King made a glaring mental mistake — one that may have cost his team a win against a better opponent — on a route he’s likely seen hundreds of times before.

In the fourth quarter on Sept. 7, Missouri State wide receiver Julian Burton took off after a snap, stopped after 10 yards and then quickly restarted his stride, hoping to catch King cheating on a comeback route. King was drawn in by the fake, and by the time he could recover, Burton was three strides ahead of him, holding the ball in the end zone.

It was King’s first start for the Black and Gold, which excuses the error, but only slightly. Senior linebacker James Morris sees the tremendous skills King possesses but noted he’ll have to continue developing if he wants to become a well-rounded starter.

“We’ve got a lot of guys on our team that have tremendous ability,” Morris said. “The guys you see on the field, most of the time, are the guys that are dependable. From a player’s perspective, and I can’t speak for the coaches, but I think a lot of it comes down to trust.”

The faith the team and coaching staff has in King, Morris said, is the reason he’s been given such a significant role this early in his career.

“For him to be playing as a true freshman, it means he’s somebody we think we can trust,” Morris said. “And obviously, he’s a young player, and he’s going to make some mistakes, but we don’t have anybody on the field that we don’t have confidence in, and that’s certainly true for Desmond.”

King was listed as the starter opposite of BJ Lowery for this week’s game against Iowa State.

Sophomore cornerback Jordan Lomax’s status is still up in the air at the moment because a hamstring injury, which opens the door for King to gain even more valuable experience.

Freshman wide receiver Matt VandeBerg has also significantly progressed as a player in his short time as a Hawkeye. The Brandon, S.D. native caught two catches against Missouri State and continues to show his promise as a pass catcher.

“He's practiced well. He's not the biggest guy in the world, you probably noticed that,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But he'll grow as we go along. He's really practiced well and made some good catches. He tries to block, and he does what he's supposed to do. So he's really picked things up quickly.”

VandeBerg hopes to continue to crack the Iowa game-day roster, but he’s not the only true freshman on the offense fighting for playing time.

Running back LeShun Daniels has seen time in the backfield, carrying the ball six times for 30 yards thus far in his young career. With a group of talented and established backs ahead of him on the depth chart, though, it will be difficult to Daniels to find a rhythm with his game. 

Junior ball carrier Mark Weisman sees an intriguing upside to Daniels’ game and believes he’ll aid his team this season, despite the limited role he’s expected to play.

“He’s a beast out there. He’s fast and can make guys miss,” Weisman said. “He’s a really good running back and is going to help this team a lot this year.

“Anyone that can help, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if they’re freshmen or fifth-year seniors. Anyone that can help, that’s what’s important.”

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