During the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa football has been quietly funneling defensive backs into the NFL.
Names like Matt Bowen, Sean Considine, and Bob Sanders are just a handful of NFL players who played in the defensive backfield for the Hawkeyes.
In recent years, the funneling trend has become more prevalent, especially at cornerback.
Charles Godfrey was drafted in the third round by the Carolina Panthers in 2008. Bradley Fletcher followed Godfrey in 2009, becoming a third round pick of the St. Louis Rams. Amari Spievey continued things in 2010 when the Detroit Lions picked him with their third-round pick.
Current Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater could be the next in line to continue the recent trend.
Prater, a three-star recruit from Omaha, NE, played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2008. His statistics were low, but he gained invaluable experience.
In 2009, the experience payed off. While most quarterbacks' eyes were looking for Spievey, Prater was handling his own. Prater had 42 tackles, eight passes broken up and two interceptions in 10 games last season.
Prater was a big part of why Iowa ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing defense.
Along with Spievey, Prater was tied for fifth in the conference in passes broken up. He also ranked third in passes defended per game. Heading into the 2010 season, Prater is Iowa's top corner on defense. He has been selected to the 2nd-team All-Big Ten list by Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated.
Prater suffered a injury prior to Iowa’s open scrimmage this summer which prevented him from demonstrating his skills to the fans. Head coach Kirk Ferentz was quick to label the injury minor, saying the junior defensive back was only held out of practice as a precaution.
“He’s been practicing pretty well, but we’re going to be smart with him,” coach Ferentz responded when asked after the scrimmage.
Joining Prater at corner for Iowa are Micah Hyde, Greg Castillo, William Lowe, and Jordan Bernstine. The group combines for a total six letters.
Hyde, a sophomore, was one of three true freshmen to see action for the Hawkeyes in 2009. He played in all 13 games as a freshman behind Spievey.
In high school, Hyde earned a few Ohio offensive player of the year selections, not to mention six all-conference honors. Hyde definitely has talent, and should be the starter on the right side this season.
Bernstine looks to compete for the starting job as well, but has his work cut out for him. The red-shirt junior missed last season with an ankle injury, then encountered a minor legal mishap over the summer. Still, he has the determination, talent and work ethic to overcome and contribute in a big way this year.
Castillo and Lowe have shown flashes in the past, and should help solidify the depth at corner this year as well.
If Prater and company keep improving as expected, there’s no reason to think Iowa’s trend of defensive backs in the NFL won’t continue. Maybe not this year, but soon.