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By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Defensive backs typically get mentioned for one of two reasons: they’re either making big plays, or giving them up.
Through five games in 2015, the Hawkeyes are feasting on the former, and limiting the latter.
Iowa allowed only three passing plays greater than 30 yards through the first two weeks of the season. In Week 3, the defense surrendered one. The last two weeks combined? Zero.
It’s a big reason the Hawkeyes are 5-0, but the season is young and defensive backs coach Seth Wallace wants to continue to see progress.
“They’re coming along,” said Wallace, who is working with the secondary for the first time since returning to staff last season. “They continue to do well as a group and they continue to build that bond that is needed back there in the secondary.
“There is a lot of communication that goes on in the secondary. You see it every day and you have to continue to remind them that they haven’t all been together for (very long), so we have to continue to work on that.”
The Hawkeyes’ starting secondary is a unique blend of individuals. Free safety Jordan Lomax is a fifth-year senior calling the shots. Cornerback Greg Mabin is a wide receiver transplant who has started 17 of the last 18 games at right corner. Strong safety Miles Taylor is a second-year player turned first-year starter, and cornerback Desmond King has transformed into one of the most exciting players in the conference.
King leads the Big Ten with five interceptions and nine passes defended. He had two interceptions against Wisconsin in Iowa’s Big Ten opener, and his first led to the only touchdown of the game.
“(In King) I see somebody that is opportunistic,” said Wallace, “and a lot goes into that. We obviously have a good d-line. Linebackers are spaced where they need to be, and a lot of Desmond’s success is really how we’re operating defensively right now.
“He’s an opportunistic player. He has great vision. He’s in the right place at the right time. Credit to him and credit to the rest of the defense.”
Sooner or later opposing teams will have to look away from King down the field, but Wallace doesn’t expect that trend to happen this week.
“We’re facing an offense this week that is going to throw the ball all over the field,” he said. “I don’t know that they’re really worried about where one guy is aligned. They’re not going to stop doing what they do offensively, so we have to be alert to that and Desmond has to be expected to make big plays.”
Iowa hosts Illinois at 11:01 a.m. (CT) Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Fewer than 5,000 tickets remain for the annual Homecoming contest.
“Our guys have played extremely hard over the last five weeks,” Wallace said, “and we’re looking forward to the advantage that we always hold when we’re playing in Kinnick, and that’s the fact that our fans are into it, they’re behind us, and right now it’s a good time to show up and watch these guys.”