I started this with the best intentions. Really. Seriously. I wanted to give earnest takes on a lot of the the Hawkeyes’ schedule.
I thought it was important for you to know who Indiana’s fifth defensive back is.
And then I started down the path. I’ll be honest, it didn’t engage me. Following that logic, I don’t think it’ll engage you. Maybe some, but not the majority.
I think we’d all rather run wild and free in the summer, have fun, go to music festivals and fall asleep to baseball crowd noise.
So, there will be more of that and less of the gacky poo that is best left to the summer magazine crowd (I did the Lindy’s thing for like 20 years, it’s refried spring shinola).
Here is this. I did finish Purdue and Penn State, but the computer ate it. Offer the smartest defensive coordinator in the world $10 million to coach Purdue’s defense and he’s going to say, “No thanks.” That offense is going to drag its defense up and down the field and crap all over the situational element. It’s how Purdue has to be. (I say this as a torch carrier for Purdue. A good Purdue is a good B1G West.)
Penn State’s secondary is going to be kick ass. The Lions get CB Tariq Castro-Fields back from injury and safety Jaquan Brisker. They return three players who snagged some sort of all-Big Ten mention last season.
Sorry for the incompleteness. Semi-retired does mean you never have to say you’re sorry. Not totally, anyway.
Why start with secondaries? I’m a little nervous about Iowa’s passing game. I think you probably are, too, so we’re going to start there. I don’t not want this to be the “history of this kid,” but more of a quick in for who they are. I don’t know about everyone, but Northwestern’s secondary caught me off guard last season. (I wasn’t as plugged in).
This is a device to show you what the Hawkeyes are getting from their opponents when the season starts.
A few notes about where the info is coming from: The official school sites have the bios of players and they are faithfully kept and updated by SIDs. Great souce. For the depth charts, I used Dan Shonka’s Ourlads site. I met Dan when I worked in Cedar Rapids. He’s diligent and knows his stuff. For stats, I’m using the wonderful CFBstats.com. Really good stuff there. Go and geek out for a few hours.
SEPT. 4 — Indiana Hoosiers (Kinnick Stadium), 2:30 p.m. (BTN)
Quick observation: The Hoosiers are loaded. They have three capable corners — Taiwan Mullen (5-10, 175 so.), Reese Taylor (5-11, 185 jr.) and Jaylin Williams (6-0, 182 jr.). There is inexperience at free safety, but super senior Raheem Layne, who logged starts in 2018 and ’19, announced his return for 2021 and was IU’s special teams player of the year in 2019.
This is a versatile group. Mullen and Matthews logged more than 100 snaps at slot corner last season. Mullen is drawing NFL attention. Junior Juwan Burgess (6-1, 199 jr.) might be ahead at FS, but faces competition. Strong safety Devon Matthews (6-2, 205 jr.) is a doer, earning third team all-Big Ten last year.
Mullen — Third season as a starter (+3), 38 tackles (+3), three interceptions (+3), four PBUs (+4), first-team all-Big Ten (+5), Mel Kiper’s Big Board mention (not first round, but on the board) (+2). Mullen also had 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, so pay attention when he’s near the LOS. Total: 20
Williams — Second season as a starter (+2), 30 tackles (+3), four interceptions (+3), 1 PBU (+1), second-team all-B1G (+4). More of a pure corner. Total: 14
Taylor — Second season as a starter (+2), 29 tackles (+2), one interception (+1), 7 PBUs (+7), B1G honorable mention for special teams (+2). Total: 14
Burgess — 143 snaps in 2020 (+.5), 8 tackles (+1). Total: 1.5
Matthews — Third season as a starter (+3), 40 tackles (+4), 1 interception (+1), 6 PBUs (+6), third-team all-B1G (+3). Total: 17
Yes, I will do five defensive backs from each team. If you’re not rotating, you’ve got vets you love or you hate your depth.
Unit points (vs. Power 5)
Yards per game — Hoosiers finished at 241 yards per game for 10th in the B1G and +5.
INTs — The Hoosiers were No. 1 with 17 picks. Junior Jamar Johnson and Williams shared the team lead with 4. Johnson was drafted in the fifth round of this year’s draft by the Broncos. So +14 for the Hoosiers here.
Completion percentage — IU allowed 59.1 vs. Power 5 for sixth in the league and +9.
Yards per attempt — Hoosiers were seventh for +7.
We’ll see if this is good. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is. This is a salty-ass group. The three corners in this group combined for 10.5 tackles for loss. IU head coach Tom Allen is a defensive dude. Maybe a little clue to the Hoosiers’ aggression.
Bonus points: Here’s the Rivals’ star rankings for the Hoosiers’ top five — Mullen 4 star, Williams 3 star, Taylor 3 stars, Burgess 3 stars and Matthews 2 stars.
Hoosiers’ total: 91.5
SEPT. 11 — At Iowa State (Jack Trice Stadium) 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Quick observation: I said I’m scoring five players. The Cyclones have seven legit players who could be evaluated. ISU has a trio of corners led by senior Anthony Johnson Jr. (6-0, 192 sr.). Tayvonn Kyle (5-11, 174 jr.) and Datrone Young (5-9, 170 sr.) split time at the other corner spot last season, combing for more than 700 snaps at corner. Greg Eisworth II (6-0, 198 sr.) returns at strong safety. Like Iowa’s Bob Sanders, Eisworth is a three-time first-team all-Big 12 pick and should be everything a super senior should be. Free safety is up in the air with Kym-Mani King (5-10, 169 jr.) and Villanova transfer Jaquan Amos (6-1, 190 sr.), who had eight picks in 33 games at Villanova.
The Cyclones play a 3-3-5 alignment, so the fifth player we’ll score here is sophomore star safety Isheem Young (5-10, 208). Young was fantastic for ISU last season, earning Big 12 freshman of the year co-honors.
Johnson Jr. — Third season as a starter (+3), 40 tackles (+4), 5 PBUs (+5), honorable mention all-Big 12 (+2). Total: 14
Kyle — Third season as a starter (+3), 28 tackles (+2), 6 PBUs (+6), 1 INT (+1), honorable mention all-Big 12 (+2). Total: 14
I. Young — Second season as a starter (+2), 50 tackles (+5), 3 PBUs (+3), 1 INT (+1), honorable mention all-Big 12 (+2). Total: 13
King — 66 snaps (+.5), 8 tackles (+1), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 2.5
Eisworth II — Four-year starter (+4), 47 tackles (+4), 4 PBUs (+4), 1 INT (+1), first-team all-Big 12 (+5). Total: 18
Datrone Young didn’t make the cut, but he’s a legit starter-level corner. His 332 snaps in 2020 filled in at the end of the season. He’s started enough games to get three-year points (+3), had 25 tackles last year (+2) and two PBUs (+2), so a 7.
Unit points (vs. Power 5)
Yards per game — The Cyclones allowed 244.9 yards per game vs. Power 5 for 7th in the Big 12 and +4.
INTs — ISU had nine and tied for third in the Big 12 in 2020 for a +8. Linebacker Mike Rose led the Cyclones with five picks.
Completion percentage — ISU allowed 62.7 vs. Power 5 for sixth in the league and +5.
Yards per attempt — Cyclones tied for eighth with 7.5 for +3.
The Big 12 is a passing league, so the completion percentage and yards per attempt are going to be high. Iowa State is a top 10 team going into 2021. The Cyclones probably want to create more turnovers from the secondary, which definitely shows up when it’s time to tackle.
ISU has tons of depth. If Amos comes in and plays like one of the most coveted safeties in the portal (which he was considered at the time, with West Virginia and K-State interested).
Bonus points: Here’s the Rivals’ star rankings for the Cyclones’ top five — Johnson Jr. 3 star, Kyle 3 star, I. Young 4 star, King 2 star and Eisworth 3 star.
Cyclones’ total: 81.5
SEPT. 18 — Kent State (Kinnick Stadium) 2:30 p.m. (BTN)
Quick observation: The Golden Flashes are on a good run behind head coach Sean Lewis. They’ve won seven of their last eight games, including three of the four played in 2020. The Flashes had only four games, so these individual numbers simply aren’t going to add up to much.
Also, Kent State allowed 262 rushing yards and 6.61 yards per carry in 2020. You didn’t have to bother with the passing. The defense allowed 38 points per game.
Here are the Flashes’ five top defensive backs — CBs Montre Miller (5-10, 183 jr.) and Elvis Hines (5-10, 174, sr.) and safeties Keith Sherald (5-9, 181, sr.), C.J. Holmes (6-0, 213 sr.) and Richie Carpenter (5-10, 194 sr.).
Miller — First season as a starter (0), 106 snaps in 2020 (+.5), 2 tackles (+1). Total: 1.5
Hines — Second year as a starter (+2), 13 tackles (+1), 3 PBUs (+3), 1 INT (+1). Total: 7
Sherald (didn’t play in 2020 due to injury, so let’s do his 2019) — Second year as a starter (+2), 86 tackles (+5), 6 PBUs (+6), 3 INTs (+3). Total: 16
Holmes — Two-year starter (+2), 8 tackles (+1), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 4
Carpenter — 100+ snaps in 2020 (+.5), 20 tackles (+2). Total 2.5
Unit points (vs. Power 5)
Yards per game — The Flashes led the MAC with 162.0 yards per game. (+12)
Interceptions — The Flashes had three and finished tied for sixth. (+6)
Completion percentage — Kent State allowed just 51.6 completion percentage from opposing QBs in 2020 for No. 1 in the MAC. (+12)
Yards per attempt — It was 7.1 yards and third in the league. (+10)
If the Golden Flashes don’t get the run defense moving the right direction, the secondary won’t matter much and they’ll finish with a losing record in the MAC. This secondary has a lot of experience and might be able to compete, but it’s going to need help.
Flashes’ total: 71
SEPT. 25 — Colorado State (Kinnick Stadium) TV and time TBA
Quick observation: This exercise really comes up empty when the team we’re talking about played just four games. The Rams played just four games in the Mountain West last season. These FBS conferences that called off the season and then tried to fire them back up again really didn’t do much of anything right. They’re players and fans got a quarter of nothing.
The Rams have an experienced secondary. I gave everyone listed last season as part of their service time. The numbers, as you would expect, are terribly thin.
CSU has seven years of starting experience at corner in Rashad Ajayi (5-11, 190 jr.) and Marshaun Cameron (5-9, 190 sr.). Freshman safety Henry Blackburn (6-0, 200 fr.) broke in last season with Logan Stewart (6-1, 215 sr.).
Tywan Francis (6-0, 200 jr.) is listed as the nickel.
Ajayi — Fourth season as a starter (+4), seven tackles (+1), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 6
Cameron — Third year as starter (+3), 29 tackles (+2), 1 PBU (+1), 1 INT (+1). Total: 7
Blackburn — Second year as starter (+2), 23 tackles (+2), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 5
Stewart — Third year as starter (+3), 26 tackles (+2), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 6
Francis — 100-plus snaps (+.5), 18 tackles (+1). Total: 1.5
Unit points (vs. Power 5)
Yards per game — Rams were 10th with 250.3 yards per (+3)
Interceptions — Four-game season really hurts here. Just one. Last in the Mountain West. (+1)
Completion percentage — Opposing QBs completed 60.7 percent of their passes. T6th for CSU. (+7)
Yards per attempt — It was worth it to throw vs. CSU last season at 8.2 yards per attempt. 10th in the MW. (+4)
Again, it’s an experienced group. Just four games last season will make it weird. Coming into Kinnick after Iowa has been through through top 25 matchups only adds degree of difficulty.
Rams’ total: 40.5
OCT. 18 — at Maryland (Maryland Stadium) 7 p.m. (FS1)
Quick observation: Maryland had the 13th-ranked rushing defense in the Big Ten last season, so the pass defense kinda got a … pass. Sorry, I had something for this. The Terms got just five games in and so they saw only 165 passes last season, fewest in the Big Ten and 19th nationally. The numbers are solid across the board, but that’s how it’s going to go when your front seven is allowing 230 rush yards per game. There’s some fool’s gold here.
Maryland can roll four corners with experience. Deonte Banks (6-1, 200 jr.) is the most experienced. He had 235 snaps at CB last season. Sophomore Tarheeb Still (6-1, 182) looks to be his versatile running mate with 127 corner snaps and 137 slot corner snaps last season. Senior free safety Jordan Mosley (6-1, 210) and strong safety Nick Cross (6-1, 210 jr.) are solid.
I’m going with senior Jakorian Bennett over senior Kenny Bennett for the fifth spot. Both are corners. My rationale here is J Bennett played more snaps.
Banks — Third season as a starter (+3), 11 tackles (+2), 1 PBU (+1). Total: 6
Still — Second season as starter (+2), 20 tackles (+2), 8 PBUs (+8). Total: 12
Mosley — Third season as starter (+3), 41 tackles (+4), 2 PBUs (+2). Total: 9
Cross — Third season as starter (+3), 23 tackles (+2), 3 PBUs (+3), 1 INT (+1). Total: 9
J. Bennett — 171 snaps in 2020 (+.5), 6 tackles (+1), 2 PBU (+2). Total: 3.5
Unit points (vs. Power 5)
Yards per game — Again, this is fool’s gold for the Terps, but they did finish third in the league with 200 yards on the nose. (+12)
Interceptions — Just two. (+2)
Completion percentage — Solid 56.4 for the Terps. (+12)
Yards per attempt — Just 6.1 for another +12.
I’m throwing a side eye on this one, but this unit does have a lot of experience. Maryland, however, is all about offense and likely will leave its defense hanging because offense is cooler and they have a Tagovailova at QB.
Terps’ total: 77.5