Tyler Sash has been dropping clues about this since November.
Asked then about a possible leap to the NFL, Sash just smiled and mentioned the fact that, even though he’s a junior, he will turn 23 in May.
That was definitely not a “I plan on staying.” That was more of a “here’s one of the reasons I’m leaving.”
EDIT: About 9:30 Wednesday night, Sash wrote this on his Twitter account (@TSash): “After much prayer and deliberation, I’ve decided now’s the right time to go to the next level. Thanks Hawkeyes for all of your support.”
Former Hawkeye safety and NFLer Matt Bowen now writes for the National Football Post broke the news Wednesday that Sash, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Another clue, since Sash reactivated his Twitter account after the Insight Bowl, he started following NFL agent Jack Bechta, who represents former Hawkeyes Tony Moeaki, Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds. Bechta also writes a column for the National Football Post.
Bowen writes, “Talking to league scouts, Sash is projected as mid-round pick and is expected to run in the low 4.5’s, which will help his draft stock.
Sash can play in a Cover 2 system and has the ability to walk down to the line of scrimmage and play over the tight end. The type of safety will make an immediate impact on special teams and appeal to NFL coaching staffs looking for a young playmaker to compete with veteran talent in camp.”
After the Insight Bowl, Sash said he still hadn’t made a decision.
“The decision hasn’t been made yet,” said Sash, who did submit his name to the NFL advisory committee for an draft evaluation. “I’ll sit down and talk to coach [Kirk] Ferentz again. I talked to him for maybe 30 seconds about it. He’s had more important things to deal with than talk to me about my stuff. I’ve got a couple weeks here. I’ll talk to friends and family and make a decision.”
Wes Bunting, director of college scouting for the National Football Post, said there would only be so much Sash could gain from a fifth year at Iowa.
“He’s older than most juniors at this stage and he’s never going to run overly fast,” Bunting said. “The biggest question I have is he’s not a great tackler, not a great open-field guy. He’s not a great in-the-box-guy, so if he doesn’t make plays on the football, he’s going to be out of the NFL quickly because he doesn’t tackle consistently.
“But he has great producation at a high program, so I think goes, depending how he runs, from fourth [round] to sixth.”
If Sash makes an NFL team as a No. 5 safety, he’ll have to standout on special teams, Bunting said. Sash was on Iowa’s punt team this season. Bunting also believes that Sash could make an NFL team as a No. 4 safety.
Sash was a two-time first-team all-Big Ten safety for the Hawkeyes.
He’ll leave Iowa with 13 career interceptions, fifth on Iowa’s career list. He holds Iowa career record for interception return yards with 392. In 2009, he tied Iowa’s game record with three interceptions against Iowa State. His 86-yard interception return for a TD against Indiana in 2009 ranks as the fifth longest in Iowa history.
This season, Sash had two picks, two pass breakups and 79 tackles, third on the team. He also was first-team all-Big Ten on the coaches’ and media ballots for the second consecutive season.
Sash is the third Hawkeye in the last two seasons to leave with a year of eligibility remaining. After 2009, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and defensive back Amari Spievey left Iowa a year early for the NFL.
Bulaga was selected in the first round and will start at right tackle for the Packers in the NFC Divisional playoffs this weekend. Spievey earned a starting safety spot for the Detroit Lions midway through the season.
Sash’s departure obviously opens a spot at safety.
Prater and junior Micah Hyde will return at the corners. Sophomore Tanner Miller probably takes over for Brett Greenwood at free safety, where he was the backup for at least half of 2010.
Candidates for Sash’s spot include senior Jordan Bernstine, senior walk-on Tom Donatell, sophomore Anthony Hitchens and junior Jack Swanson.
Bernstine has been listed as a corner, but could find a home at safety, if he’s able to stay healthy. He missed a few games late in the season with a knee injury. Hitchens saw some time as a dime defensive back in the Insight Bowl. Swanson and Donatell have seen some time on special teams.