Whoever ends up starting at strong safety for the Iowa football team will have definitely earned it.
Sophomore Miles Taylor appears to have kept the starting position throughout spring practice, which ended on Saturday, but not without a push from redshirt freshman Brandon Snyder.
“I really don’t feel like it’s being in a competition,” Taylor said after Saturday’s scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium. “I feel this is like brotherly love and we’re trying to be the best. We’re trying to get the best out of everybody, not just me and Brandon.”
Taylor and Snyder both shined at times on Saturday. They each had some of the hardest hits in the scrimmage, and the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Snyder also intercepted a pass thrown by starting quarterback C.J. Beathard and returned it 36 yards.
“The safety position is still kind of wide open in our minds,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “Miles has gotten the most work with the first group.”
The situation at free safety is more clear with senior-to-be Jordan Lomax having started 12 games at that position last season. Lomax is listed ahead of junior Anthony Gair.
Competing for the same position sometimes causes a strain in the relationship between players. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Taylor and Snyder.
“I think he’s a great player,” Taylor said of Snyder, who was a multi-sport star at West Lyon High School before walking on at Iowa. “He’s a better person. He’s a really good football player. I like him a lot.”
Taylor and Snyder are competing for the only position in the secondary where the starter doesn’t return from last season. Departed senior John Lowdermilk started at strong safety in each of the past two seasons.
“We just try to get better every day in practice, learning the calls and being physical,” said Taylor, a 6-0, 195-pound native of Silver Spring, Md.
Being physical doesn’t appear to be a problem for Taylor or Snyder, who wasn’t made available to the media on Saturday. Both players seem to thrive on attacking the line of scrimmage and making bone-jarring hits.
“That’s the Iowa way,” said Taylor, who played primarily on special teams as a true freshman last season. “We’re physical as a team. And that’s how we play, physical and tough. As you’ve seen in the past, our defense is very physical. We like to hit.”
Taylor considers former Iowa all-America safety Bob Sanders as an inspiration. Sanders was known for his ferocious tackling while playing at Iowa from 2000-03 and in the NFL, where he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
“I do like Bob Sanders a lot, I really do,” Taylor said.