Iowa takeaways: King's big year generates NFL whispers

Rick Brown
Iowa defensive back Desmond King waits for the ball as Minnesota prepares to punt on Saturday.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Twenty-one seniors will play their final game at Kinnick Stadium Saturday against Purdue. That doesn’t include Desmond King.

The junior cornerback, who has tied a school record with eight interceptions this season and developed into a dangerous kick returner, is getting some mention as a possible early-entry candidate for the NFL Draft. It’s not a subject that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz enjoys talking about.

“With all due respect, I just hate that topic,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “And if it happens, it happens. We’ve had guys that have left with a year of eligibility, going back to Dallas Clark. We’ve had guys leave, and guys who have chosen to stay. That’s a topic for after the season. I’ve been supportive of every player, whatever direction they go.”

Before the season started, King discounted any NFL talk. He hasn’t discussed the subject since.

“I’m not leaving early at all,” King said in August. “Getting a degree is something that is very important. Football is No. 1. But so is my education.”

The last Hawkeye player to leave early for the NFL Draft was offensive tackle Riley Reiff. He left with a year of eligibility remaining and was taken by the Detroit Lions with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The last true junior to leave early was offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, also selected with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2010 draft by Green Bay.

Ice that arm

Senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith completed the first pass attempt of his career Saturday, a 21-yard hookup with Matt VandeBerg in the fourth quarter of Iowa’s 40-35 victory over Minnesota.

“I felt like Cam Newton,” Smith said.

The play was added to the playbook two or three weeks ago, Smith said.

“We actually called the play against Indiana (the week before), but we checked out of it,” Smith said.

Smith, who was forced to play some quarterback as a high school senior when the starter was injured, said he was excited when C.J. Beathard called the play again against the Gophers.

“He actually told me before the play, 'Don’t do anything stupid,' ” Smith said.

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Boiler up

Purdue is 2-8 this season, and 1-5 in Big Ten play. Ferentz didn’t get many Purdue-related questions during his 30-minute session with reporters Tuesday.

“That has not escaped my attention,” Ferentz said. “When I meet with my team, we’re talking about Purdue. All about them. These guys are really playing hard. Really hard. And they played extremely hard last week.”

The Boilermakers lost at No. 20 Northwestern last week, 21-14. They also lost at No. 9 Michigan State earlier in the season, 24-21. Purdue’s lone Big Ten victory came against Nebraska, 55-45. The Cornhuskers had beaten coach Darrell Hazell’s team the previous two seasons, 44-7 and 35-14.

“That’s how it is week to week,” Ferentz said. “And if you’re looking backwards instead of forwards, pretty soon you’re going to be going down. I don’t think we’re going to be guilty of that. If we do, shame on us.”

A good problem

Iowa’s offensive line has had its share of injuries, with tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger missing multiple games. Myers missed the first three Big Ten games. Boettger has missed the last four.

Cole Croston has stepped in and taken more snaps this season than any other tackle, starting the first three Big Ten games at left tackle in place of Myers and the last three at right tackle in place of Boettger, who was cleared to play last week but was held out for precautionary reasons.

“He’s not quite there right now, but when he is there, what a great situation,” Ferentz said. “We’ll rotate the guys, I’m fine with that. Just like we’ll rotate backs. They’ve proven they can play and play well against anybody.”

Grandpa knows best. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard’s grandfather, Bobby, is a former NFL general manager. The two talk on a weekly basis, but critiques are left on the sidelines.

“He doesn’t really talk about, “Hey, you need to do this or do that,” C.J. said. “He’s just happy for me and this team. He’s very complimentary. He thinks we’re doing a good job. He’s happy and proud of me.”