Iowa’s most improved position in Kirk Ferentz era

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ANSWER: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s 19 years have included seven national award winners and this season there’s the potential for two more in cornerback Josh Jackson (Thorpe as nation’s top defensive back) and linebacker Josey Jewell (Nagurski as top defender). Iowa boasts the most Big Ten offensive linemen drafted by NFL clubs the last 15 years as well as a ton of high-caliber defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers.

But Iowa had a reputation in those areas before Ferentz. There’s one position that has really elevated throughout his tenure and that’s cornerback. From 1999 through 2008 — a 10-year period — Jovon Johnson was the only Iowa cornerback to garner first-team All-Big Ten honors. Since then, however, it’s almost dynastic the way defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker has churned out elite cornerbacks.

From 2009 through this season — nine years — Iowa has boasted eight first-team All-Big Ten cornerbacks and half were 2-star recruits. They include:

  • 2009 — Amari Spievey (2-star)
  • 2010-11 — Shaun Prater (3-star)
  • 2012 — Micah Hyde (2-star)
  • 2013 — B.J. Lowery (3-star)
  • 2015-16 — Desmond King (3-star)
  • 2017 — Josh Jackson (2-star)

Hyde, King and now Jackson each were named Big Ten defensive back of the year (Hyde 2012, King 2015, Jackson 2017). The previous five players saw time on NFL rosters, and all but Lowery were drafted. Hyde ranks second in NFL interceptions and leads Pro Bowl balloting at strong safety. King returned an interception 88 yards for a touchdown last week on Thanksgiving.

Jackson, who arrived at Iowa as a wide receiver, has the second-most passes defended in college football in the last 10 years. It’s likely Jackson earns the Thorpe Award, same as King two years ago.

Iowa has consistently molded high-level talent at many position groups, but no group has made more strides throughout Ferentz’s 19-year tenure than cornerback. The proof is in the accolades.

Read more answers about the Iowa Hawkeyes here.

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