Hawkeye film room: Physically, new DB recruit Kaevon Merriweather is what Iowa wants on defense

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

Iowa dug way under the radar for its 21st commitment of the 2018 class in Michigan safety Kaevon Merriweather.

Dearborn Fordson punt returner Rayan Bandar (34) is tackled by Belleville's Kaevon Merriweather (26) during Belleville's 35-7 win over Fordson on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, at Fordson.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound product of Belleville received and accepted Iowa’s offer during his official visit Friday night. He had previously held offers from Western Michigan and Ferris State … for basketball.

Merriweather is raw, having only played two years of high school football. But his physical gifts are without question. Those, plus impressive instincts for someone relatively new to the sport, attracted Iowa’s attention. Coaches got to watch him in person while courting Belleville 2019 prospects Jalen Hunt, Devontae Dobbs and Julian Barnett, who all hold Iowa offers.

Rivals gives Merriweather two stars and 247Sports doesn’t have him rated.

Let’s see what makes Iowa’s new recruit stand out in this Hawkeye film room session …

Physically, he's exactly what Iowa wants on its defense: Merriweather’s size could translate to success at either safety position. Although it looks like he’d fit best as a strong safety, because this kid loves to hit people. In the first clip, Merriweather charges in from strong safety, lowers his shoulder and rocks the running back. You can see the same ferocity at 1:55, when he lines up as the lone safety, tracks the running back and quickly closes for a booming tackle. And while Merriweather is raw, his projectable versatility shines through in film. He lines up all over the place — strong safety, free safety, cornerback, outside linebacker. He was a difference-maker wherever he was on the field for Belleville, and that’s exactly what Iowa looks for in its defenders.

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Ball-pursuit is quite good — probably his top selling point: That doesn’t mean he’s off-the-charts fast — he looks to be in the 4.7 40-yard dash range, which is a fine start. But Merriweather does use long-stride closing speed, quick reactions and smart, aggressive angles to the ball carrier to be destructive. At 0:15, watch Merriweather identify the toss play from his safety position, track the ball carrier and accelerate through blockers for a tackle behind the line — despite being one of the defenders furthest from the play. You’ll see more great angles for tackles at 0:40, 1:35 and 1:55. Perhaps his most impressive play comes at 2:05; he lines up essentially as an outside linebacker, reacts immediately to identify the ball carrier on an eight-lineman package and swarms in for a leg tackle at the line. Watch how quickly his feet move on this play.

Energy, energy, energy: We don’t see much pass coverage in his film, other than a screen play he blows up — no examples of read-and-react, for instance. But Merriweather is in full attack mode all the time, and that's something you can't teach. While his rough edges will need plenty of work, his boundless energy and motor will keep him competitive until he develops in the finer aspects of the game. Merriweather is a bit of a gamble, but there’s a chance for a big payoff.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.