Iowa CB Desmond King Stands In A Class All His Own
The ordinary fan without any knowledge of the Iowa Hawkeyes would look at senior cornerback Desmond King’s statistics without batting an eye. Sure, he shows up as a tackler, but he’s only recorded one interception on the year. Some might call such numbers pedestrian; that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The reason behind King’s almost quiet statistical output is simple — nobody has the guts to throw his way. King set the college football landscape ablaze in 2015 with eight interceptions (good for T-2 in the country), 72 tackles, and a touchdown. Such elite production earned King, then a junior, the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive back. Most players in his position would’ve taken the money and run off to the NFL, especially when you consider most pundits had King projected as a first round pick. But King took the road less traveled; rather than enter the draft early, he opted to remain in Iowa City and play his senior season.
As expected, Big Ten quarterbacks (and coordinators) grew wiser. Rarely is King ever tested; the standout corner doesn’t see much action given his off-the-charts skill set, but when David Blough of Purdue decided to roll the dice and try his luck against King, the senior made him pay. King nabbed his first interception of the season and promptly took it back 41 yards for the score.
Things weren’t always this way for King. A lightly-recruited high school running back, King has earned every single accolade that’s come his way during his Hawkeye career. While his stock grew astronomically as he improved with each passing season, King maintains the physical style of play that caught the attention of Iowa coaches during his recruitment. “He really reminds you — you look at the recruiting model and how he got there. That’s who he is,” James Franklin said of King. “He’s got a physical aspect to his game, he’s strong, he’s a play-maker, and when he gets the ball in his hands, that’s what you see.”
King is unlike any other corner the Lions will see this season. Sure, players like Maryland’s Will Likely presented a challenge, but the one King brings is vastly different. In a sense, it’s the collegiate version of what Darrelle Revis brings to the table for the New York Jets — quarterbacks know he’s there, and that’s enough to give the defense an advantage. King remains on one side of the field for the duration of a game rather than shadow a team’s No. 1 receiver. In a sense, this tactic employed by Iowa almost eliminates an entire side of the field. Sure, quarterbacks have the option of testing him, but more often than not, coordinators avoid the gamble entirely by keeping King away from the ball.
Chris Godwin is expected to face King for most of Saturday’s contest. While he’s cognizant of King’s ability, he’s prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that comes his way. “Obviously he’s a great cornerback. He’s a physical guy, he’s got a lot of good speed, and they play a good scheme,” Godwin said. “He was the Jim Thorpe Award winner for a reason. There’s not many things on film that you can say against him.”
King is only one piece of Iowa’s puzzle, but he’s arguably the most important. While he likely won’t show up much in the box score, all it takes is one errant pass or one jump of a route to swing a game’s momentum. The matchup against King will resemble more of a chess match rather than a football game for the Lions.
One question remains — who will outsmart his opponent?