What did Hawkeyes sophomore cornerback Cooper DeJean do in Iowa’s 24-10 victory over Wisconsin? The better question — what didn’t he do?
Well, he didn’t play any snaps on offense. But he did a heck of a lot to help them with 82 yards on punt returns, including a 41-yard return in the third quarter that set his offense up at the 18. The typical returner is receiver Arland Bruce IV, but he missed the game with an injury.
So, insert the former high school quarterback who can make magic happen with the ball in his hands.
DeJean said after the game he’s willing to do whatever is asked.
“I do whatever they tell me to do, whether that’s punt return, being a gunner, being a corner on a punt return,” DeJean said. “Wherever they want me, I just want to help the team win.”
He sure freaking did, on defense too.
With just under two minutes to go in the half, and Iowa struggling to hang on to a 7-3 lead, the true sophomore made his first major imprint on the game. DeJean undercut Graham Mertz’s pass over the middle, didn’t break stride and walked into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. It was his fourth interception of the season — and his first in seven weeks.
But DeJean said the timing of throw allowed him to make the play.
“It was man coverage and I probably got beat a little bit,” DeJean admitted. “But then I came back out of it and I just saw the ball come and I had to make a play there and it was all green grass ahead.”
It looked pretty easy for a player who head coach Kirk Ferentz says makes it seem that way.
“He just makes it look easy, which is kind of amazing,” Ferentz said. “Good players have a way of doing that sometimes, but it’s not easy. I’m talking about all the mental intricacies.”
Ferentz went on to compare his game and his versatility to an NFL Pro Bowler.
“It’s just an unusual skill set, if you will,” Ferentz said. “Micah Hyde probably the closest thing maybe we had, maybe Desmond, but Micah is probably the better reach there. On top of it, he’s a great young guy and just a great team member. Quite an effort tonight from him.”
DeJean’s fellow secondary-mate Kaevon Merriweather says there’s more than what the public eye has seen.
“Ya’ll didn’t even get to see him play safety yet — he did in fall camp,” Merriweather revealed.
Merriweather joked that he was going to gas DeJean up at the podium, with his teammate standing to his left.
“What doesn’t Coop do well?” Merriweather said rhetorically. “You see him in punt return — athlete. Corner — athlete. Cash [linebacker] — athlete. The sky is the limit. I can’t wait to see where his game progresses when I leave here and see what he continues to do. He’s going to be a great player for our football program down the line.”