Parker piecing unit together

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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The puzzle that is Iowa’s defense for the 2014 season is still missing a few pieces, defensive coordinator Phil Parker said on Wednesday afternoon. He called the linebackers “fluid,” spoke highly of the defensive line, and said Desmond King — last year’s freshman phenom at corner — is doing well.

The holes in Parker’s puzzle are, as one might guess, in the secondary — which produced a not-so-great showing in West Des Moines on April 12, when the Hawkeyes practiced in Valley Stadium.

Specifically, Parker, who is entering his 15th season with Iowa, spoke about John Lowdermilk and how he and Nico Law are in a battle at strong safety. Just by peering over the latest spring depth chart, there’s also a battle brewing between Maurice Fleming and Sean Draper for the cornerback spot opposite King.

“But we are still trying to figure out the rest of the pieces of the puzzle, and we’ve got a long ways to go right now,” Parker said. “Hopefully, the next three days, some guys can show us something that we can do and see where they are going to end up for the preseason.”

That fourth spot in the secondary, at least right now, belongs to Jordan Lomax, who made the switch from cornerback to free safety after losing his job to King a year ago because of injury.

Parker talked at length about Lomax, who’s a junior. He said Lomax looks more comfortable now and that he’s glad he made the switch because it allows the Hawkeyes to get all of their best defensive backs on the field at the same time.

But there’s still work for Lomax to do, of course. Parker expects him to be “the commander.” He expects his free safety to be a vocal leader, almost like an assistant coach out on the field.

“I don’t think he’s there yet, exactly what I’m looking for as a safety,” Parker said. “[But he’s] feeling more comfortable.”

Fleming, Draper learn from King

Fleming loves that he, Draper, and sophomore Greg Mabin are competing against one another for the starting left cornerback spot on Iowa’s depth chart. He said it helps everybody out because they’re all continually pushing each other.

Still, whoever takes over the starting spot will ultimately be thrown to the wolves, in a sense. All three cornerbacks have combined for 14 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2 passes defended while seeing action in just 28 games over the course of two seasons.

That inexperience has turned King into a teacher, of sorts. He’s been helping guys such as Draper and Fleming just by sharing the experiences he had last year as a true freshman.

“That’s the big thing,” Fleming said. “He has that over all the cornerbacks here, is game experience. He’s been telling us how to prepare for the games and stuff like that.”

Hardy ready for senior season

Mike Hardy knows what comes with being a senior.

Ahead of his final season, the 6-5, 275-pound right end knows that his teammates on the interior part of the defensive line, Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, have emerged as leaders for the defense — a crucial role to take over after the graduation of three senior linebackers from a year ago.

But what Hardy is looking forward to above all is playing with the experience on the defensive line. Guys such as Davis, Trinca-Pasat, and even Drew Ott at left end will be the experienced unit of Iowa’s defense for 2014 and will more than likely help carry the defense when the time calls for it.

“It helps out a lot because we know they’re going to do their job on the inside,” Hardy said. “They’re not going to be able to run [inside], so guys are going to bounce outside, which means the ends need to be out there.

“If those guys do a good job on the inside and we do a good job on the outside, everything is going to be fine on defense.”

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