IOWA CITY, Iowa – A lot of Hawkeyes have received praise for their performances this season. Plenty of Iowa players have contributed to the 7-0 start.
Miles Taylor is not a name mentioned much. His anonymity can be viewed as a good thing.
Too many times last season, the Hawkeye secondary experienced breakdowns easily identified by casual fans of the game. The first-year starting strong safety has helped sure up the back-end.
"Miles Taylor is a very intense individual and very violent football player," Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker said. "I think he’s played pretty well. I think he can play better."
That’s a comforting analysis from Parker, who also is in charge of the secondary. Taylor says he’s just following the lead of the veterans.
"As a defense, we pride ourselves on being physical and getting to the ball and that’s how football should be played," he said. "We all try to do that not just myself. Everybody on our defense is physical."
The 12th-ranked Hawkeyes (3-0 Big Ten) ranked first among conference teams in interceptions (9), third in rushing defense (74.1 YPG), third in scoring defense (15.3 PPG) and third in total defense (294.3 YPG). They’ve improved greatly from last year in all of those statistical areas.
Taylor is the only new starter in the secondary. He’s joined by free safety Jordan Lomax, a senior, and junior cornerbacks Desmond King and Greg Mabin.
The Iowa coaches helped Taylor transition from high school to his eventual starting position by playing him on special teams last fall, his first year on campus.
"Special teams you’re always 100 percent going. That’s just being a football player," the 6-foot, 195-pounder said. "You have to go in there and try your hardest all the time and that’s what football is about. Football is special teams. You win or lose with special teams."
A student of the game, Taylor, who hails from Silver Spring (MD) Gonzaga College High, spent the spring and summer honing his craft. He was locked in a battle with classmate Brandon Snyder before winning the starting spot.
"He’s really worked on his fundamentals," Parker said. "He really understands the game and understands the plays, and he’s very sharp at understanding what the guys are trying to do to him, and he is always referring back to, hey, this play, this play, and he spends a lot of time in that film room that makes him a good player."
Taylor has soaked up the advice of Lomax, another Maryland native. Taylor said he’s looked up to the veteran and has tried to emulate his approach on and off the field.
"Me and Jordan have a great relationship. He’s one of my close friends," Taylor said. "He’s just a great person. He’s a smart, caring human being. He really loves football a lot, too. That’s what makes it great to work with him."
Taylor ranks sixth on Iowa in tackles with 27 (15 solo). He’s also credited with breaking up two passes, including a key one at Northwestern on Saturday.
Next fall, Taylor will be joined at Iowa by younger brother, Kyle Taylor, who verbally committed to the program as a linebacker. He’s a senior at Gonzaga College High.
Big brother said he stayed out of the way and allowed his sibling to make the choice that was best for him.
"He kind of did it himself along with my parents, of course," Miles said. "But it was his decision to come to Iowa. It wasn’t my decision.
"But I told him about Iowa. I kept it real. I said it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult."
Miles experienced the highs and lows of recruiting during his process. He was committed to Georgia Tech before flipping to Iowa. Yellow Jackets Coach Paul Johnson wasn’t happy.
"He fed (the media) a bunch of baloney, but that’s usually what happens. He said something about how ‘None of the coaches had contacted him in a long time,’ and this, that or the other. It was ironic how he had been here just the week before on his official visit. (Assistant Joe) Speed talked to him that Thursday before he took his visit to Iowa, and neither him or his dad told (Speed) that he was going on that trip," Johnson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a story published Fe. 13, 2014..
"The kid spun it the way he wanted to spin it, but it didn’t exactly happen that way. I’ve gone down this road a hundred times (with this topic). Anyways, so he decided to go visit Iowa after he visited us. We didn’t care.”
For Taylor, he’s never looked back. He said the Hawkeyes always felt like home.
"I got to know the players on the (Iowa) team. There’s a great bond between the players. The coaches, I really like that they push their players hard and want the best of us," he said.
Parker has helped Taylor reach the level at which he currently resides. He believed there was plenty of room to go before the ceiling was reached.
"He’s very intense. He has a passion. It means something to him, and we’re excited to see where he can go," Parker said.