PFF spotlights Cooper DeJean’s meteoric rise

The 2022 college football season has just ended, yet the Iowa Hawkeyes may have themselves one of the most anticipated college football players in the entire country heading into the 2023 season.

The hype around Iowa’s cornerback, safety, punt returner, gunner, and all-around football player, Cooper DeJean, has seemed to turn the volume up as his stock for next season is on a meteoric rise.

Pro Football Focus recently highlighted just how good he was in 2022 when playing as a cornerback. Of the five interceptions that DeJean had, three of them wound up as returns for touchdowns. That was a new program single-season record.

The 49.7 passer rating allowed against him is superb. For reference, Iowa’s offense had a passer rating of 106.7 per ESPN. Among ESPN’s qualified passers, the lowest passer rating nationally was Colorado’s JT Shrout with a rating of 98.3. DeJean made teams nearly twice as bad as the worst qualified passer in the country when they threw at him.

Iowa head football Coach Kirk Ferentz shared in November some of his thoughts on the recruitment of DeJean and what stood out.

“But you have to believe what you see and believe what you feel, too. I think the bottom line, probably seeing Cooper play basketball live is the one that really kind of, you just can’t deny what you’re seeing. He’s a really good athlete, super competitive. What we didn’t know is, he’s just a great guy on the football team. Unassuming is not the right word. But he’s not overly impressed with himself.

“They just try to go out and compete and seem to do everything really well. I’m impressed by a lot of things he does. Probably the most impressive is he does whatever we ask him to do, he just kind of handles it. He’s not grinding coffee on it at all. I’m sure he is internally. Never would know it. Just goes out and does it,” Ferentz said.

Going into his third season with the Hawkeyes, DeJean will be counted on to be the veteran leader in the secondary with the departures of Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather to the NFL.

While those two are going to the NFL, the Iowa secondary is not rebuilding by any means. They are reloading. DeJean and Xavier Nwankpa both had pick sixes in the 21-0 win over Kentucky in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl.

“Then, if you give our defense a chance, they might do some good things, and both play great. Cooper is hardly a veteran, but he has played. And then for X to get that one, that was great for him in his first start, too. So you get some young guys getting some valuable experience and having a great experience,” Ferentz said of the pairs interception return touchdowns a

Iowa also returns Sebastian Castro, Quinn Schulte and Jermari Harris in its defensive backfield for 2023.

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