With Lomax out for a half, Anthony Gair must step up
In the time it takes to lower your head and make a tackle, Anthony Gair's role with the Iowa football team changed dramatically.
Gair replaced Jordan Lomax at free safety in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 20-17 loss to Iowa State after Lomax was ejected from the game for targeting.
"I didn't really have much time to get nervous, I guess. A little bit, though," Gair said Tuesday. "It was just exciting to get in and try to help the team as much as I can."
Gair is expected to make his first career start against Pittsburgh on Saturday as Lomax serves the rest of his suspension through the first half.
Gair will become the first Hawkeye to start a game in place of player who was suspended under the new targeting rule, which was implemented last season.
"It's definitely exciting," said Gair, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore from Plano, Texas. "I'm looking forward to the challenges."
Gair made two tackles during his brief appearance against the Cyclones.
"Anthony did okay," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "His first real action where it counted. He's going to have to do well this week, because he's going to be out there the first half. He stepped in and did a competent job. Hopefully now he can build on that."
As for Lomax, Saturday's ejection was his latest setback with regard to playing time. He entered last season as a starting cornerback, but missed four games because of an injury. Lomax then lost the starting spot after Desmond King performed well in his absence.
Lomax moved to free safety in spring practice and earned top billing.
His one-game suspension for targeting will end at the completion of the first half against Pittsburgh.
"It's very frustrating, but basically I've just got to do whatever I can to help the team out right now," said Lomax, a 5-10, 200-pound junior from Marlboro, Md. "I've got to prepare right now for Pittsburgh, and in the first half I just have to (use) my eyes on the sideline, and if see anything that I think can help out the guys in the game, I have to be able to communicate with them when they come off to the sideline."
Lomax had made six tackles, forced a fumble and had one pass break-up when he was ejected from the Iowa State game. He acknowledged that he lowered his head, but he wasn't trying to target Iowa State receiver Jarvis West, who was injured on the play.
"I see that I did lower my head, but I honestly don't agree with the judgment call," Lomax said. "But I did lower my head. So I can see what they're talking about. So I do need to keep my head and eyes up. But I don't think I have to change the physicality part."
Ferentz also defended Lomax's intent.
"I thought he was trying to avoid targeting," Ferentz said Tuesday. "That was my view of it. But it's easier said than done."
Lomax is confident that Gair will handle his responsibilities and help to bring a physical presence to the Iowa defense, which will be matched against a vaunted Pittsburgh rushing attack led by 250-pound running back James Conner.
"He's another big frame and he likes to come downhill and hit, too," Lomax said of Gair, who saw action in all 13 games last season, mostly on special teams. "So he's very physical, and I'm sure he'll step in and do a good job."
Gair takes pride in being physical.
"Iowa is known for being physical and tough," Gair said. "And I've been doing my best to try and add do that."