Notebook: The other safety

BY DANNY PAYNE | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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A year ago, Jordan Lomax was learning on the fly, trying to find a way to play a new position while stepping into a leadership role in the defensive backfield. After losing his starting spot at cornerback because of an injury the season before, he moved from cornerback to free safety, a position responsible for the entire defensive backfield.

Fast forward one year, and Lomax is comfortably a leader of the defense. Now, the learning is going on around him.

After two-year starting strong safety John Lowdermilk graduated, the Hawkeyes listed Miles Taylor as the starter at that spot at the beginning of spring, with Brandon Snyder backing him up. However, defensive coordinator Phil Parker was hesitant to say if the depth chart is still in that order.

“The last practice I saw some stuff I liked out of Brandon Snyder a little bit,” Parker said.

After Parker praised Snyder for his strong play so far during this spring, a reporter pressed him by asking who would start if the season began today. Parker was noncommittal, saying there’s still time left in the spring for things to shake out.

“Today, [Taylor] might go out to start,” Parker said. “I think we’re going to rotate some guys in there and give them a chance with the first group over there to see where he’s at.”

Parker also noted the possibility of backup free safety Anthony Gair getting into the mix at strong safety. Snyder, a redshirt freshman, and Gair are both 210 pounds, while Gair, at 6-2, has an inch on Snyder. Taylor is listed as a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore.

“We’ll see,” Parker said. “It’s still a long ways to go.”

The other defensive backs

As far as the cornerbacks go, Desmond King is a virtual lock after starting for two full seasons with the Hawkeyes at right corner.

Greg Mabin started all year for the Hawkeyes at left corner, but was up and down at times. Mabin’s performance in the TaxSlayer Bowl in January — which was not pretty by any stretch of the word — led some to believe he could be challenged for playing time this season.

As it currently stands, that could be the case. Maurice Fleming has a decent amount of experience, and Parker said it’s still a battle at those for minutes at the left cornerback.

“I think Fleming has really made a push this spring to where you could categorize it, there are only two now playing, can you get three of them on the field at the same time is something we always look at, especially with the personnel group,” Parker said.

Based on Parker’s words, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Fleming in the defensive backfield on passing downs when Iowa brings in an extra defensive back. Or, should he continue to impress the coaches, maybe Mabin comes in as the nickel while Fleming plays in more of a starting, regular role.

“I think there’s three of them that are above the other guys right now with Mabin, and King, and Fleming,” Parker said.

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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