Desmond King ready to be Iowa's main kick-return man

Chad Leistikow
Desmond King showed his big-play ability last year as a defender, returning an interception against Indiana for a touchdown.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Making your lock-down cornerback the lead kick returner is a risk. But Iowa thinks Desmond King in that role will provide the reward.

The case for King, special-teams coach LeVar Woods said, begins with explosive evidence on his high school tape.

"Go back and watch some of his returns and interceptions," Woods said, "and you'll see why we like him as a returner."

Though Iowa hasn't listed return specialists on its depth chart, King said he's the guy for both punts and kickoffs. The Hawkeyes especially struggled in the punt-return area last year. Control guys Riley McCarron and Matt VandeBerg gained just 95 yards on 20 returns, with a long of 23, last year.

King approached the coaching staff to offer his services in the return game. There's injury risk that comes with returning kicks into a line of defenders looking to make a punishing tackle, but Iowa also needs more big plays wherever it can find them.

The decision, King said, "shows the team needs some more explosive plays."

At East English Village Prep in Detroit, King set a Michigan record with 29 interceptions but also rushed for 2,360 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior.

"I was a running back in high school," King said, "so I know how it is out there with the ball in my hand."

King wouldn't be the first No. 1 corner to be a primary return man. Micah Hyde returned punts for the Hawkeyes in 2011 and 2012, and in his first two NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers he has three punt-return touchdowns.

Woods sees a lot of Hyde in King.

"(Hyde) was a lock-down corner that when the lights came on, we asked him to go back and return punts," Woods said. "I think Desmond has sort of risen to that challenge and hopefully will continue to do that."