Hawkeyes announce surprise starter for season opener
The back end of Iowa's defense is getting younger.
Sophomore cornerbacks Greg Mabin and Desmond King were listed as starters Friday when the Hawkeyes released their latest football depth chart.
Redshirt freshman linebackers Bo Bower and Josey Jewell also could get significant snaps when the season kicks off Aug. 30 against Northern Iowa.
How about true freshmen?
"I don't see anybody starting right now," coach Kirk Ferentz said after last Saturday's scrimmage. "Just like everything else, though, we have to keep an open mind."
Seeing King on the top line at right cornerback is no surprise. He started the final 12 games of 2013 as a true freshman.
Mabin's emergence at left cornerback, however, is a bit of a shock. He was listed as a third-stringer – behind Maurice Fleming and Sean Draper – when camp began earlier this month.
The first indication of a shakeup came Saturday from Ferentz.
"He's been having a good camp," Ferentz said of Mabin. "It's been a three-way deal, and I'd say it's still there. It's up for grabs."
The coach was a little coy when it came to Bower and Jewell.
Bower, who joined the program as a walk-on from West Branch, is listed as a co-starter at outside linebacker along with Travis Perry.
Jewell, a former all-state performer from Decorah, is sharing weak-side duties with sophomore Reggie Spearman.
"Bo and Josey are both guys who ought to be really good special teams players for us," Ferentz said, "and hopefully they'll help us from scrimmage, too."
Senior middle linebacker Quinton Alston appears to be the only lock.
"Outside of Quinton, I don't think we're totally established with anything," Ferentz said. "We're just kind of looking at guys, evaluating them."
What does this mean long term? Well, you can't accuse Ferentz or his staff of being inflexible or overly loyal.
Perry is a fourth-year junior who has waited for a chance to play, but he'll have to keep ahead of younger guys who may have more upside.
That could ease some of the concerns about linebacker depth.
Newcomers may make an impact in the kicking game as well.
Mick Ellis, a true freshman from Texas, and Marshall Koehn appear to be even in their battle to replace Mike Meyer as the primary field goal kicker.
Junior-college transfer Dillon Kidd is listed as a co-starter at punter along with incumbent Connor Kornbrath.
Kidd showed consistency during last week's scrimmage, while the field-goal kicking might have made fans wince.
"Ironically," Ferentz said, "that's probably been one of the highlights of camp."
Injuries can contribute to depth-chart tweaks.
Senior wideout Damond Powell underwent sports hernia surgery this summer, but is listed No. 2 at Iowa's third-receiver spot, behind Jacob Hillyer.
Meanwhile, tight end Jake Duzey did not participate in the scrimmage due to an unspecified injury and is not listed on the two-deep roster. Defensive tackle Darian Cooper also is not listed. Macon Plewa is the only fullback on the two-deep, after projected starter Adam Cox was lost for the season with a knee injury.