The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football players Cooper DeJean, Jay Higgins, and Luke Lachey reflect on preparation for 2023 season

The trio of players representing the Hawkeyes at Big Ten Football Media Days in Indianapolis detailed both personal growth and team development.
Jerod Ringwald
Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean celebrates his pick six during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. DeJean recorded seven solo tackles and an interception. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 24-10.

On Wednesday, Iowa football players Cooper DeJean, Jay Higgins, and Luke Lachey each held press conferences during day one of Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

Apart from rehashing their athletic exploits outside the gridiron, the trio shares a sense of determination and excitement for the 2023 season. 

DeJean, who on Tuesday was voted the Big Ten’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by media members, touched on his multi-sport career at OA-BCIG High School in Odebolt, Iowa. The junior defensive back starred in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. 

When asked to comment on his grand slam in this year’s CyHawk Softball Charity Game, DeJean was surprised to hear that the press got wind of his accomplishment. 

“How’d you hear about that?” DeJean said. “I forgot how far the fences were … mine was more left center. I was alright [at baseball], played a little bit of shortstop and pitcher in my high school days.” 

DeJean’s athleticism shined bright on the field last season, as the Hawkeye piled up 75 total tackles, five interceptions, and three touchdowns. This season, as one of the elder statesmen in the cornerback room alongside redshirt junior Jermari Harris, DeJean noted the growth of his younger teammates. 

“They’ve gotten a lot better throughout the spring and throughout the summer,” DeJean said. “A lot of them have been in the film room with some of the older guys. It’s been fun to see them grow … I think a lot of them are playing with more confidence.” 

On the two-deep depth chart Iowa released Wednesday morning, sophomore T.J. Hall is listed as DeJean’s backup at left corner, while redshirt freshman Deshaun Lee is slotted in behind Harris at right corner.

Media Day at the capital of the Hoosier State was a homecoming of sorts for Higgins, who hails from Indianapolis. The linebacker earned first-team All-State honors his junior and senior years at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep, and last season, registered 39 total tackles over 12 games. 

“It’s surreal honestly, Coach Ferentz asked me last week if I wanted to go, and it was a no-brainer,” Higgins said. “I was on the plane, looking at places I recognize from being so high up … I saw my mom, dad, sister, and niece. My mom took off ten minutes of work to come see me.” 

Even though Higgins said he struck out during the CyHawk softball game, he maintained he would never miss out on an opportunity to “make a true difference.” 

Looking ahead to his fourth year in the Black and Gold, Higgins emphasized his rediscovered love for the game, not unlike his days in youth football, when he would keep his pads on long after the practice or game was complete. 

“Football is a kids’ game, but at this level and the time commitment, sometimes I just miss going out there and tossing it up,” Higgins said. “Obviously, at this level, there’s a lot more that goes into it, but I’m starting to get back to that place where football has become that joy again. I can play a little bit looser now that I’ve gone and put those hard hours in.” 

Following in the footsteps of Iowa’s Cade McNamara and Erick All, Lachey chose to take his talents to the links this summer. 

“I only got into golfing this July,” Lachey said. “I don’t go with them, they’re way too good for me. They don’t want to wait for me the whole time.” 

Lachey admitted that he had more of a “basketball-type body” his senior year of high school, weighing in at 205 pounds. That all changed once the tight end got inside Iowa’s strength facilities, or as he described:
“A place you can’t go hungry.”

Backing up current Detroit Lion Sam LaPorta last season, Lachey snagged 28 receptions for 398 yards and four touchdowns. Listed as the top tight end this season, Lachey said he is more assured of his own skills but also eager to see what transfers like All can offer. 

“It’s really cool to know new people [this year] … it’s cool to see them bring their experience from their different school into our locker room,” Lachey said.  “Just bringing the best things from their program into our program.” 

Kirk Ferentz addresses depth chart 

Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters not to worry about any questions regarding the offensive line depth chart, saying that “there could be eight or nine guys competing for a starting job” at the start of fall camp. 

Ferentz lauded current starting left guard Nick DeJong for his flexibility playing both the guard and tackle positions during Saginaw Valley State transfer and right tackle Daijon Parker’s injury in the spring. As for Connor Colby, who is listed below DeJong, Ferentz said he doesn’t plan on playing him on the outside.

Wide receiver transfers Kaleb Brown and Seth Anderson, from Ohio State and Charleston Southern, respectively, are not listed on the depth chart. Ferentz said this was a result of not having seen Brown play in person, as well as Anderson’s soft tissue injury during the offseason.

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Jerod Ringwald, Creative Director
Jerod Ringwald is the Creative Director at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. He was previously a managing editor this past summer as well as a former photo editor. During his sophomore year, he worked as a photojournalist covering news and sports.