There are indications that Iowa has been doing a great deal of experimenting at the safety positions in the opening week of spring practice.
Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood have started side by side at the back end of the defense for the past three years, but both are gone now.
Tanner Miller, who played sparingly as a true freshman last fall, is expected to replace Greenwood at free safety but he is sitting out the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. That has left the door wide open for auditions at the two spots.
There is a handful of players who have been in the program for a few years who are contending for those spots — Collin Sleeper, Jack Swanson, Tommy Donatell, Nick Nielsen, Kyle Steinbrecher – but don’t be surprised if either Micah Hyde or Jordan Bernstine ends up starting alongside Miller. Both have been cornerbacks for their entire careers but both have lined up at safety in the past week.
Bernstine, regarded as the top prospect in Iowa when he came out of Des Moines Lincoln, was projected to start at corner in 2009 but broke his ankle in preseason practice and has not been the same since. Hyde started every game at cornerback as a sophomore last fall, but he is a natural ballhawk who might be even better at safety. His brother, Marcus, was a starting safety at Michigan State last season.
Shaun Prater, a returning All-Big Ten player at the other corner, has been impressed by what he’s seen of both Hyde and Bernstine at safety. He said Bernstine seems more committed and dedicated now that he is down to one last season of college ball.
“I think you could put Micah in there right now,’’ Prater said. “I think you could put him and Jordan in there together and they’d fine. They are making it look so easy right now.’’
It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Hyde seems better suited to play free safety while Bernstine has the look of a strong safety. Our guess is that Bernstine could end up replacing Sash with Hyde either supplanting Miller at free safety or going back to his old corner position. If Hyde stays at safety, sophomore B.J. Lowery, who has been compared favorably to Amari Spievey, probably would start on the corner.