Lowdermilk takes on leadership role for inexperienced secondary

By Matt Cozzi, Iowa City Press-Citizen
Iowa defensive back John Lowdermilk hits LSU running back Terrence Magee in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.

John Lowdermilk is suddenly one of the most experienced players on the Iowa football team.

Graduation and attrition have led to gaps on the defense for the Hawkeyes, including at safety, where Lowdermilk returns on the strong side after starting all 13 games there in 2013. The Carrollton, Ohio, native played his freshman and sophomore seasons mostly on special teams.

Tanner Miller is now a Green Bay Packer, Nico Law transferred and junior Jordan Lomax switched from cornerback following last season — and will likely be opposite Lowdermilk at free safety on Aug. 30 when Iowa meets Northern Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Ward and sophomore Anthony Gair, among others, are the backups at safety.

The new chapter begins.

"I think we've progressed a lot," Lowdermilk said. "Spring ball helps out a lot. You're kind of rusty at the beginning of spring, then kind of work your way through it."

Playing at safety can be a learning process, especially for underclassmen. But the five defensive backs Iowa signed in February might have to contribute as soon as two weeks from Saturday.

"We're really counting on him," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Lowdermilk. "Players have to do things within their own personality.

"But the way he plays, his attitude and his effort on the practice field, all those things are going to help make him be a logical leader on the defense he needs to be. He needs to accept that."

Though he ranked fourth on the team with 78 tackles, Lowdermilk is probably best remembered by Hawkeye fans for his Outback Bowl blunder. While coasting into the end zone for what looked like a 72-yard interception return, Lowdermilk inexplicably dropped the ball at the 1-yard line.

Now a senior, Lowdermilk says he's ready for more responsibility.

He'll help guide Lomax at a new position. Lomax played nine games at cornerback in 2013 before an injury. He missed all of 2012 with a shoulder injury.

"He knows just about every position," Lowdermilk said of Lomax. "He's a smart guy. He kind of knew what a safety's job is. He's never really played it, so that's a hard transition. But he transitioned better than anyone else could because of his intelligence."