FOUR DOWNS WITH THE DEFENSIVE BACKS
The depth chart (No. 1 and then probables)
CB — Shaun Prater, sr., 5-11, 185; Torrey Campbell, fr., 5-11, 183; Gavin Smith, so., 5-10, 175
CB — Greg Castillo, jr., 5-11, 182; B.J. Lowery, so., 5-11, 185; Jordan Lomax, fr., 5-10, 185
SS — Collin Sleeper, jr., 6-2, 200; Jordan Bernstine, sr., 5-11, 205; Tom Donatell, sr., 6-2, 205; Nico Law, fr., 6-1, 199
FS — Micah Hyde, sr., 6-1, 190; Tanner Miller, so., 6-2, 201; Jack Swanson, jr., 5-11, 200
Shaun Prater picked off four passes last season, earned first-team all-Big Ten and nearly bolted for the NFL draft. He submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board in January. It came back with a grade below the third round. Thus, Prater has plenty of motivation for 2011. He was one of 13 Hawkeyes who were affected by rhabdomyolysis in January, but he reports no ill effects. He went through spring practice with an eye toward improving his body and technique. He’s also taken strides in the leader category, something defensive backs coach Phil Parker appreciates.
Under the radar
You might not be able to get any farther under the radar than Collin Sleeper. Since December, the 6-2, 200-pounder from Solon has gone from second-team special teamer to first-team strong safety. Sleeper’s rise has given Parker some flexibility, especially in the face of losing Tyler Sash a year early to the NFL. Suddenly, Parker is able to slide junior Micah Hyde from cornerback to free safety, which might be a better fit athletically and experience-wise. Parker also has real competition for that open corner spot between Greg Castillo and B.J. Lowery. Sleeper doesn’t have the job yet, however. He needs to hold off oft-injured senior Jordan Bernstine.
Right now, you have to go with true freshman Torrey Campbell, who appears to have wedged his way into the No. 2 corner spot behind Prater. The 5-11, 183-pounder was a state champion and national-level high hurdler while at Barron Collier High School in Naples, Fla. That speaks to his athleticism. He did have three pass interference penalties in the scrimmage on Aug. 13, but that’s an easy fix and it’s probably good that he’s being aggressive. Lowery is probably the next candidate here. He has a chance to go from special teams and dime package extra to No. 1 corner. Through nearly two weeks of camp, Castillo remained No. 1.
– Marc Morehouse