IOWA CITY — It’s not just the gaudy numbers on the stat sheet.
Iowa teammates say cornerback Josh Jackson reminds them of Desmond King, the 2015 Thorpe Award winner as college football’s top defensive back, in the meticulous way he prepares for opponents.
“The detail work in the way he breaks down tape, the time he spends on it, he’s a lot like Desmond and it shows in the way he is playing,’’ linebacker Josey Jewell said. “Desmond was always looking for a way to get an edge on an opponent and I see that in Josh, as well.’’
Everybody is seeing the results of Jackson’s preparation.
The junior was named Monday as the Big Ten co-defensive player of the week for the second straight week, the second Hawkeye ever and the first to be honored on offense or defense to receive the recognition in back-to-back weeks.
Tim Dwight won special teams player of the week honors in consecutive weeks in 1997, but Jackson entered uncharted territory when he returned two interceptions for touchdowns and forced a fumble in Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin.
The effort allowed Jackson to share this week’s Big Ten recognition with the Badgers’ Leon Jacobs, who recovered two fumbles, including one he returned for a touchdown against the Hawkeyes.
Following a three-interception game against Ohio State the previous week, Jackson now has seven picks on the season and is within one interception of matching the Iowa single-season record set by Nile Kinnick in 1939 and matched by Lou King in 1981 and Desmond King in 2015.
“What he’s done the last two weeks, just statistically, I don’t know how you can do better than that,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said following Saturday’s loss. “It’s video game-type numbers and it’s really the result of his hard work.’’
Senior safety Miles Taylor sees that, as well, dating to the offseason when both starting cornerback spots became open after King and Greg Mabin completed their eligibility.
The work ethic had always been there. The lineup openings provided the motivation that Jackson needed.
“All summer and all spring, he really worked hard at perfecting his craft,’’ Taylor said. “I think he’s been doing a really good job at film study. We’ve been going over a lot of film, recognizing formations and getting a great feel for receivers.’’
The payoff comes each Saturday.
At 6-foot-1, Jackson stands three inches taller than King and he also benefits from a track background where he competed in the jumps in high school.
That athletic ability, combined with his vision and anticipatory skills based on what he’s learned in practice and by watching tape have positioned Jackson for the success he has had as a first-year starter.
“He’s been doing some pretty impressive things out there,’’ linebacker Ben Niemann said. “It goes back to being ready. That’s something that Desmond was really good at and I think he learned a lot by watching and understanding how his film prep helped him compete. He’s doing the same.’’
Jackson said following Saturday’s games that his interceptions against the Badgers were the result of two different things.
The first that gave Iowa a 7-0 lead was a result of his preparation during the week and the second, which pulled the Hawkeyes within 17-14 midway through the third quarter, was the result of a little luck.
“I kind of figured they were going to get to the out route (on his first pick) and I just saw the ball, saw the route and undercut it,’’ Jackson said. “The other one just happened to land in my hands, really. I tried to break on the ball and it landed in my hands.’’