August 12, 2009

Bernstine out? Who's in?

The Hawkeye football fortunes dodged a bullet this summer when the rumors of Jewel Hampton suffering a possible season ending injury in July turned out to be a false alarm. On Wednesday the alarm bell rang again with news that possible starting cornerback Jordan Bernstine might have been injured in practice and could potentially be sidelined for a while.

If Bernstine is out, who jumps into the race for the starting position opposite Amari Spievey at cornerback?

That is one question that is certainly going to be asked on Saturday, if it is indeed true that Bernstine is out with an injury to his ankle. At this time, nothing regarding the injury has been confirmed by Coach Ferentz or the Iowa Football team and we likely won't know much more until Saturday afternoon when the Hawkeyes hold their annual Kids Day event at Kinnick Stadium.

HawkeyeReport.com has confirmed through one source that Bernstine did sustain an injury to his ankle this week and all signs at this time point to him missing a significant number of weeks of action. With a redshirt year still in his pocket, Bernstine may use it this year.

Bernstine isn't a stranger to the injury bug in his career. Last year an injury in camp provided an opening for Amari Spievey to jump through and he never looked back. This fall, Bernstine was running at the top of the depth chart at one of the corner positions and having a good camp when the injury bug bit the Des Moines native once again.

You certainly feel for the young man because he put a lot into the off season to come into camp in top physical condition and earn the starting spot in the lineup. But, like it or not, injuries are part of the game and the coaches will likely have to move forward very quickly to other options.

One of those options could be Shaun Prater, who played last season as a freshman and showed flashes of being a capable corner early in the season. Many Hawkeye fans will remember Prater's strong defensive play against Iowa State in the end zone as a sign that he could be pretty good. Holding up the move of Prater into the starting lineup is a two game suspension after being charged with an OWI earlier this year.

Last season in his freshman year, Prater saw action in all 13 games and recorded 11 tackles and two pass breakup's.

It's possible that once he completes his suspension, Prater could slide into the starting lineup, but until that happens, another Hawkeye player will have to fill that void.

The most likely candidate to move into the starting lineup at this point is probably sophomore William Lowe. The 5-foot-10 corner from Cleveland Glenville saw action in three games last year with two tackles for the year and was listed as Bernstine's backup heading into camp.

Beyond Lowe, the depth chart starts to thin out at an already thin position. Other options could include Chris Rowell, a 6-foot and 195 pound senior who also hails from Ohio. Rowell has yet to receive much playing time in his career at corner, but has contributed three tackles. Most of his playing time to date has been on special teams coverage.

A couple of very young prospects might also merit a look at cornerback. Redshirt freshman Greg Castillo drew praise from Coach Ferentz recently and could be a name to watch in this battle. Castillo needed to bulk up last year in his redshirt year and he did just that, adding on 22 pound to his frame. At this time, Castillo is listed as the backup to Spievey at one of the cornerback positions.

One of the real wildcards in this competition could be true freshman Micah Hyde. Defensive backs coach Phil Parker was very high on Hyde in the recruiting process and he might have to call upon him this year to improve the team's depth. One thing we do know is that over the years, Kirk Ferentz and defensive coordinator Norm Parker haven't been shy about putting a true freshman into the defensive backfield. Who can forget Bob Sanders seeing time at safety or Adam Shada and Jovon Johnson mixing in at cornerback? The list of true freshmen playing also includes a couple of guys mentioned here: Bernstine, Lowe, and Prater.

If there is an upside to the injury, and that isn't easy to find with any potentially serious injury, it is that the injury happened early on in camp and it allows Phil Parker time to adjust his depth chart and prepare a few guys to fill in the gap.

While the starting spot might be up for grabs, one thing you can bet on is that Amari Spievey will be about as lonely as the Maytag repairman at the other corner. Other programs are likely to take most of their shots downfield against the new face and not the All Big Ten candidate.

The true answer to the question of who might have the upper hand in becoming the Hawkeyes starting cornerback comes on Saturday, when we get a look at the team. HawkeyeReport.com will be there live from Kinnick Stadium with updates posted in our premium area starting before practice with updates and any news from the Kid's Day activities.


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