IOWA CITY — Nico Law wants to get into the game.
“I’m very anxious,” the sophomore strong safety said. “I’m excited, nervous, everything. I have a lot of adrenaline rushing through my head. I’m ready.”
Senior strong safety Tommy Donatell is equally excited. He’s been a journeyman during his five years at Iowa. He came in as a grayshirt who suffered a pair of torn ACLs in high school in Atlanta. He played quarterback, switched between strong and free safety and even played with the No. 1s at outside linebacker last season due to injuries.
“I’ve bounced around a couple of positions and I’ve learned a lot,” Donatell said. “They’ve given me an opportunity to play here and that’s all I can ask for.”
Strong safety remains the most contentious position heading into today’s season opener against Northern Illinois. Law was listed as the No. 1 last spring, but he and Donatell are listed with the “OR” coming out of fall camp.
What do they have to do to win it?
“I need to sharpen my physical tools and my mechanics,” Law said. “Coverage, form tackles, that sort of thing. Coverage is more with your eyes than your body. I have to be focused.”
Remember the big hit Law delivered on running back Damon Bullock during spring practice? You’ve seen video or the GIF. That wasn’t a form tackle. Law didn’t wrap up and, yes, he was yelled at for it.
“Yes, I sure did [get yelled at],” Law said.
“He’s a really smart guy,” secondary coach Darrell Wilson said. “His skill level has improved. He’s really worked hard on his footwork. That’s basically what he needed. He knows the system, he knows the responsibilities, but he’s really worked on his phyical tools enough where he can play for us.”
Wilson will make the call, with input from other coaches, including defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who knows both players well after moving to coordinator from secondary.
“If it’s a tie, that’s great,” Wilson said. “It’s my decision and our decision as a staff on who you put out there. It’s getting to that point.”