You saw how quickly Iowa’s depth at cornerback drained last season. In the opener, sophomore Jordan Lomax suffered a hamstring injury that ended up costing him a few weeks. True freshman Desmond King went in and locked the position down for the rest of 2013.
That was probably a good thing. After King, it might’ve been sophomore Sean Draper. After him, probably walk-ons.
Enter Embry, a 5-foot-11, 176-pound three-star prospect by Rivals.com.
Embry committed to the Hawkeyes the day after Iowa’s 26-14 home loss to Michigan State. He had 11 offers, including Wisconsin and Illinois.
“What I really like about the coaches is just how they are real with you. They were very upfront about everything that they told me,” Embry said. “Also, the players that I met were cool. I had a chance to talk to Desmond King, who I’ve known for a quite a while, and he is really happy there.”
Iowa needs corners, yes, but Embry has opened eyes as a wide receiver this fall at King.
“They like him at corner, but they got a hold of some of his film this year and he’s been exceptional at receiver for us this season,” King assistant coach Terel Patrick told HawkeyeReport.com. “He’s been a difference maker, really stretching the field as a receiver, so I’m not sure if cornerback is a done deal yet.”
Embry caught 53 passes for 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns on offense as a senior at King High School. He also was named first team all-state by Detroit Free Press and first-team all-metro by Detroit News. Embry played defensive back and wide receiver and returned kicks on special teams.
Embry, who didn’t receive offers from Michigan or Michigan State, and King are from Detroit. They’re good friends.
“Desmond is like a big brother to me, and he always keeps me positive,” Embry told State Champs Sports Network.
Iowa signed four potential corners in this class. What sets Embry apart? Patrick: “Defensively, he’s a physical corner. In our scheme, we have our corners play a lot of man-to-man coverage, so he’s used to playing with his back to the quarterback and he has good hips, has the ability to run with anybody plus he’s very physical at the line of scrimmage.”
Basics: King High School (Detroit, Mich), 6-0, 184, cornerback
Dent in the depth chart for ’14? — Good chance, maybe about 75 percent, if he sticks at corner. The corner spot needs depth, so maybe as many as three of the true freshmen could see the field, especially if they bring special teams value. Iowa hasn’t used a lot of true freshmen as punt/kick returners (maybe not any), but that could be a reason to pull off a redshirt. (Frankly, I don’t see Kevonte Martin-Manley losing the PR job. KR is another story, with probably RB Jordan Canzeri getting a real look.)
ESPN scouting snippet – Embry is a solid athlete most likely for any non-BCS program. He would benefit from more bulk and speed. Will probably project as a safety at the next level.
Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison — Amari Spievey
What Iowa said . . .
Head coach Kirk Ferentz on why so many defensive backs in this class: “We signed more DBs than we would’ve anticipated or set out to do. And recruiting is a fluid thing. So if you have good players that are still interested in you and you like them, sometimes you’ll bend and expand what you thought were your needs and oversign in an area and make up for that later on. But all the DBs that we signed, we’re really excited about, and obviously we’re excited about Desmond and some of the other young players in our program.”
Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson on similarities between Embry and Desmond King: “Same area, same position, but other than that, two different guys. They’re very good players. [Defensive coordinator] Phil [Parker] does a tremendous job evaluating corners. He knows what he wants and what he looks for. [Embry] is a guy we felt very comfortable with for a long time. Has great ball skills.
How much does ball skill matter for a corner? “You want a guy who if the ball is thrown to him, he can catch it. Takeaways are a big part of it.”
What Rivals.com . . .
Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: “Embry and King are both good football players, good friends and they both have some of the same skill set. It’s not out of the question that you could see Embry make an impact his freshman year as well at the cornerback position.”
But . . . “He’s very good at the wide receiver position and could help out there. His highest upside is on defense, but we have him listed as an ‘athlete’ because he could play either side of the ball in college.”
What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .
Watch the highlight video. When Embry has the ball in his hands, he keeps his cool and runs effortlessly. It won’t be the same in college, but you can’t ignore his ball skills. It’ll be interesting to see what side of the ball wins out. He’s a natural pass catcher. Showed some refined skills (not moving hands into place for the ball until the last second, not giving DBs a target). On defense, he comes up and hits and keeps a great knee bend. The WR is going to change drastically next fall, with four redshirt freshmen becoming eligible. Iowa needs Embry on defense, at least right now.