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Hyde, Bernstine auditioning at safety

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

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.

Recruiting reflections

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Random thoughts in the wake of Wednesday’s national signing day:

— Once upon a time, when a high school football player made a verbal commitment to sign with a school, you could take it to the bank. The recruiting was over. The kid was going to that school.

Not any more.

“Decommits” — players who change their mind after committing to a school — are now very common and seemingly increasing with each passing year.

Iowa only had one player decommit this year — Matt Hoch of Harlan, Iowa, changed his mind in December and decided to join his brother at Missouri — but the Hawkeyes picked up three players who once were pledged to other schools: C.J. Fiedorowicz (Illinois), Kevonte Martin-Manley (Bowling Green) and Tanner Miller (Northern Iowa).

— After signing Marcus Coker and D’Andre Johnson on Wednesday, Iowa now has eight running backs on scholarship and all but one of them will be either a freshman or a sophomore next season. And the one who will be a senior (Paki O’Meara) may be the least of the eight.

Even if Brad Rogers and Jeff Brinson end up at some other position (or some other school), it’s still hard to figure out how the Hawkeyes can find enough playing time for Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher and Jewell Hampton, especially if Coker is the second coming of Shonn Greene, as some believe.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t concerned.

“You know, I hope it becomes a problem,” he said. “I’m trying to think of the last time it was … I can’t remember us having too many good players at any one position. I certainly can’t remember us having too many running backs. My memory is a little bit recent right now. I was just happy this past year to have two in one game.”

— Obviously, big things are expected of Fiedorowicz, Coker, A.J. Derby and Andrew Donnal, the four-star players in Iowa’s recruiting class.

But some of us won’t be shocked if Solon linebacker James Morris ends up being the best player out of this class. And you have to believe there are some other great “sleeper” prospects in this bunch. Carl Davis is a 300-pound defensive tackle who regularly dunks in his high school basket-ball games in Detroit. I can’t wait to see what that guy looks like.

— From my experience, recruits who also have played sports such as basketball and tennis generally have very good footwork that translates well to the football field.

If that’s the case, this is a really good group. I counted 14 players among the 21 in Iowa’s class who play or have played for their high school basketball teams. Fiedorowicz already is his school’s career scoring leader. Brandon Scherff and Austin Vier are among the top rebounders in the state of Iowa right now. B.J. Lowery and Martin-Manley are going to be four-year lettermen at the var-sity level. Tanner Miller and Jim Poggi are in their third varsity season. Derby, who is sitting out this basketball season, helped Iowa City win a Class 4A state title as a sophomore.

Scherff, who is listed at 310 pounds, also lettered in tennis as a freshman in high school.