The Iowa cornerback talks about trying to shut down his Cyclone counterpart.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa has a defensive philosophy, but it’s not rigid.
So of course the nation’s best cornerback, Desmond King, will be used to shadow Iowa State’s top offensive player, Allen Lazard, when the teams renew their rivalry at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium (Big Ten Network).
“If he’s in, most likely I’m going to be guarding him,” King assured reporters Tuesday. “We’re going to do matchups and personnel.”
It will be the most anticipated matchup of an always anticipated game. King won the Thorpe Award a year ago and passed up the NFL to return for his senior season for the No. 10 Hawkeyes.
Lazard, a junior from Urbandale, has 12 receptions for 124 yards in two games against Iowa. He caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown last week in a loss to Northern Iowa. At 6-foot-5, 223 pounds, he is a matchup headache and the Cyclone that the Hawkeyes most need to contain.
Which is why they will be King moving around the field to try to harass Lazard, instead of just lining up on the right side and covering whoever is across from him. Senior Greg Mabin will man the opposite side of the field as King.
“We did it last year, too, but it got to a point where guys were getting fatigued, so we just stayed on both sides,” King said. “We’ve got to try it again and see what we can do this year.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wouldn’t tip his hand about the defensive gameplan, but did allow: “We’re open to anything. You know, as we plan and scheme, we’ll try to do what we think gives us the best chance.”
That would be King on Lazard as often as possible. Watching those two athletes go head-to-head should be worth the price of admission alone.
Mabin stands up to scrutiny
As he did after Saturday’s 45-21 victory over Miami of Ohio, Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin again stood his ground Tuesday and firmly answered every question about his performance.
Mabin was picked on throughout the game by the RedHawks, and got burned on some big gains. He also made some good plays, but those tend to get overshadowed when you’re a cornerback. Mabin said Tuesday that his review of the film indicated he wasn’t as bad as it may have appeared to the naked eye. But he also reiterated that he needs to get much better.
“I just have to go out there and just stay out of my head and be comfortable and be confident. You’ve got to have a short memory,” Mabin said.
Miami’s second touchdown came on a 29-yard pass to receiver James Gardner, who darted behind Mabin as Iowa’s pass coverage broke down.
“That was definitely my fault. He was in my zone,” Mabin said. “I tried to help out the other guy instead of worrying about myself. It backfired on me. I gave up the touchdown. I take full responsibility for that. Looking back at the film, I know that I’m just going to do my job and not try to do too much out there.”
Ferentz backed his corner when asked to assess Mabin’s performance.
“He's a quality player,” Ferentz said. “He'll be hopefully ready to go this Saturday, but he's going to have a good senior year. I'm really confident in that.”
No workhorse at tailback
Iowa has moved the Cy-Hawk trophy it won last year in Ames out of its usual case and into the weight room this week. The not-so-subtle message?
“That we didn’t do anything yet,” junior tailback Akrum Wadley said. “People talk about last year how we went 12-0. it’s a brand-new year, and we’re trying to leave our mark this year.
“That (the weight room) is the main place we all go in. … Every time we go in as a team, we see that trophy right there. It’s all motivation.”
Wadley is coming off a 121-yard, two-touchdown performance against Miami. He caught another three passes for 21 yards. And he’s not even the starter. Senior LeShun Daniels Jr. added 83 yards on the ground and two scores.
Both players said they’re happy to share the spotlight, and the workload, at a position where sometimes volume is equated with effectiveness.
“I love splitting with LeShun. LeShun deserves it. LeShun is a great back,” Wadley said. “We both want what’s best for the team. It don’t matter if he gets 30 (carries), it don’t matter if I’m not even in, whatever. As long as we win.”
Daniels echoed those thoughts a few minutes later.
“I like the idea of having Akrum come in and having us fresh whenever we touch the ball,” he said. “If Coach wanted me to get 20-25 carries, I obviously would be more than willing to do it. But we have a good situation right now with me and Akrum be able to go in and alternate and have the opportunity to go out there and make plays. So we’re each fresh and not getting worn down throughout the game and throughout the season.”
Scheel time at last?
Ferentz said sophomore wide receiver Jay Scheel may be healthy enough to play Saturday after sitting out last week with a leg injury. The news on defensive end Parker Hesse wasn’t as positive after he left Saturday’s game in the first quarter with a strained muscle.
“Jay I think has a chance, he's moving closer,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully he'll be able to make it by game day. Encouraged on that front.
“Parker is probably going to be day by day. … He didn't do a lot today. He worked with the trainers. He'll have a chance, and I know the way Parker is wired, if he does have an opportunity, he'll be out there competing.”
No depths of depression
A pair of sophomores may be sliding down the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean their attitude has suffered, Ferentz said.
Quarterback Tyler Wiegers watched as Nathan Stanley, a true freshman, took some snaps late in Saturday’s game, an indication that he has been supplanted in his effort to be the primary backup to C.J. Beathard.
Linebacker Aaron Mends saw surprisingly limited action Saturday as well, even as backups such as Jack Hockaday and Kevin Ward took significant snaps. True freshmen Amani Jones and Kristian Welch also got in to the game, leaving Mends’ role unclear.
“Tyler is another guy that is a tremendous young man, great attitude. And this is hardly a closed book,” Ferentz said of Wiegers.
As for Mends, Ferentz noted that depth charts are always fluid and compared the linebacker to a star at that position from Iowa’s recent past.
“I think he's going to be a really good football player here. He's just got to keep his foot on the gas and keep learning,” Ferentz said.
“It's a little like Anthony Hitchens. Anthony, his breakout year was '13, took three years to get there, but boy, he just took off. You never know when that is going to fall in place for a player. But if a guy works hard and has a good attitude and has the ability, has the requisite ability, he has a good chance. I'm really optimistic Aaron is going to do the same thing, just really take off one of these days.”
Hitchens broke out with a Big Ten Conference-leading 124 tackles as a junior and was drafted in 2014 by the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he started 20 games over the past two seasons.