Young and talented, Iowa’s secondary aims to uphold playmaking standard

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 7:02 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Last season, Iowa’s secondary was responsible for 12 interceptions and 37 pass breakups. Despite the departure of Riley Moss, Kaevon Merriweather and Terry Roberts, this year’s unit expects production to remain the same.

“What we strive for every day is excellence and perfection,” fifth-year cornerback Jermari Harris said. “ Of course we know perfection can’t be obtained, but we try to get as close as possible to it.”

“No matter where you’re at, whether you’re a one of two, you got to go out there and make a play to Coach [Phil] Parker’s liking. It doesn’t matter who is on the field,” Iowa senior safety Quinn Schulte added.

Cooper DeJean highlights the list of returners. The cornerback capped off his sophomore season by being named the Music City Bowl MVP as the Hawkeyes shut out Kentucky 21-0. In that game, DeJean recorded 7 tackles and a pick six.

“I’m still trying to just help this team win. I think we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of guys that can help us out in different areas,” DeJean said. “Just taking on a bigger leadership role this season I think for me, is that next step.”

Another player who shined against the Wildcats, was Xavier Nwankpa. As a true freshman, Nwankpa saw action in all 13 games, but got his first start on New Year’s Eve where he returned his first interception for a touchdown.

“It definitely upped the confidence coming into spring ball. Last spring, I was really like the new guy on campus. I was trying to make some plays and then ended with that at the end of the year was big for me. Now, I’m coming through spring, trying to be a leader and get to a level we need to be at,” Nwankpa said.

“The game is starting to slow down for him. He’s seeing things better, he’s reacting quicker to different deep balls and seeing things that come over the middle,” DeJean added about Nwankpa.

Nwankpa’s young talent paired with the veteran company of Quinn Schulte will make an impressive safety tandem.

Harris also brings experience to the defensive backs. He started in 7 games in 2021, but missed last season to an injury. However, his commitment to his team never wavered.

“You don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s gone. At that point in time, it was gone and I didn’t know if it was ever coming back. I found out a lot about myself and my love for this game. That’s still going out there and putting my body on the line to see my brothers succeed and to see our team succeed,” Harris said.