Iowa's Desmond King looking sharp ahead of Rose Bowl
LOS ANGELES (AP) If Desmond King has been distracted by his looming decision of whether to declare for the NFL draft, the top cornerback for Iowa isn't letting it show in his preparations for the Rose Bowl.
Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Phil Parker said King has been especially sharp in practices ahead of Friday's game against Stanford, which will cap a spectacular junior season in which he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back.
''He takes every game like it is the biggest game, just prepares for it the same way,'' linebacker Cole Fisher said. ''Treats it like a championship game, I guess, and he is treating this one no differently. If anything, he is working even harder than he usually does.''
King is regarded as a likely first-round pick if he skips his senior season, but said Monday he remains split on staying or going. He is still waiting to receive his draft evaluation from the NFL.
''It's kind of 50-50 right now,'' King said. ''I'm thinking about staying. There's a good chance, but right now I honestly don't know what my decision is. It goes back and forth every time.''
Despite leading the Big Ten with eight interceptions this season, King is just as interested in showing off how well-rounded he is against the punishing Cardinal rushing offense and Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey. King said he would even be willing to take on guard Joshua Garnett when he pulls on Stanford's trademark power run despite giving up more than 120 pounds to Garnett.
Fisher praised King's willingness to defend the run, comparing his all-around game to former Iowa standout and current Green Bay Packers defensive back Micah Hyde. While many corners shy away from contact, King is a willing tackler.
''Their goal - this is what I've heard from our offensive coaches - is to get the corners to make the tackles because that is not their main job,'' Fisher said. ''He has shown all along it doesn't faze him at all. He gets his nose dirty. He gets right on in there.''
King will also have to defend Stanford's tight ends in the passing game, especially inside the red zone. Parker believes facing the Iowa tandem of Henry Krieger-Coble and George Kittle in practice should be more than enough to prepare King.
And if he gets to coach King for one more season, Parker would place an emphasis on refining his consistency. With King often lining up in different spots on defense and doubling as Iowa's return specialist handling both kickoffs and punts, he can occasionally lose focus, though that hasn't been the case with his draft decision on deck.
''Being a good player, I'm expecting him to play at his highest level on every play,'' Parker said. ''For him to get beat on one play is not good enough for my standards for him.''