IOWA CITY, Iowa — Desmond King stumbled upon a secret. Watching tape of Iowa State, he realized what may lead him to slowing down preseason All-Big 12 wide receiver Allen Lazard on Saturday.
“You get to jamming him and not letting him off the line that will affect his play,” the Iowa cornerback said. “We will try to play more aggressive this game and play physical with him.”
King and Lazard are arguably the best player on each team in this rivalry game. The two don’t know each other. They’ve only lined up against each other a handful of times over the last two years.
The way this matchup — potentially the one that will could decide the outcome — swings will be dictated by which player could learn more on film of a fellow star that’s a stranger.
King, a senior, won the Jim Thorpe Award last season. He was a consensus All-American. He is the definition of a shutdown corner.
Lazard, a junior, is one of the Big 12’s top receivers. He led ISU with 808 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season. He’s his team’s best option in the passing game.
Stopping that player is King’s role. King discovered what will be his best bet of containing ISU’s star receiver who has 12 receptions for 123 yards against Iowa the last two seasons.
Lazard likes to use his 6-foot-5, 223-pound frame to create separation. He is equipped with strong hands and is known for making circus-type catches — including a 33-yard touchdown reception against Northern Iowa last week.
Here is that touchdown from Lanning to Lazard! pic.twitter.com/HKsNqClYH2
— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) September 4, 2016
Stopping Lazard at the line of scrimmage before he can get going may be King’s best weapon against him.
“He’s a very physical, tall receiver,” said the 5-foot-11 King. “I know he is one of their go-to guys. He’s a playmaker.”
He is Iowa State’s only known receiving commodity. The other starters saw limited action last season. Quarterback Joel Lanning leans on Lazard in the passing game and Lazard is good enough to jumpstart the Cyclone offense with one big play.
The Iowa State offense was inconsistent in its opener, but Lazard was the one constant. He hauled in six passes for 129 yards.
He has the potential to alter the momentum of the game, or the outcome, with one play. Limiting his impact is a priority for Iowa. It’s why the Hawkeyes are planning on letting King shadow Lazard all over the field.
It’s something Iowa doesn’t normally do, but is the right strategic move this week. Iowa State wants to line Lazard up all over the field to have him make a bigger impact in games.
If Iowa kept King on one side of the field it would be easy to place Lazard opposite of King on cornerback Greg Mabin, who struggled against Miami (Ohio) last week. King following Lazard is Iowa’s strongest move to try to limit Lazard’s impact.
“If he is in then most likely I’ll be guarding him,” King said.
Like King, Lazard is pouring over film this week. In fact, Lazard started watching cutups of King over the summer. Iowa tended to be the first film he would watch.
Lazard would focus on King’s footwork, his technique and how he tries to press receivers. He tried to find a weakness in King’s game. Like most receivers on the film, he struggled to find an area to exploit.
“Still looking for it,” Lazard said.
So Lazard plans to fall back on his biggest strength as he tries to lead the Cyclones to a third straight win in Kinnick Stadium.
“He is not as tall as me, or anything like that,” Lazard said, “but he’s a tremendous athlete and that’s how he makes up for his size. He is a physical guy and I just have to use my height and my weight to my advantage.”
The matchup is big. NFL front office personnel will be watching it. They always do when a first-round pick (King) and a most likely future draft pick (Lazard) go head-to-head.
Lazard brings the ability to change the game with just one or two receptions. King can do the same with his coverage skills.
Both can make an impact in the return game, but only one can win their battle when ISU holds the ball.
“I believe that I can cover anybody on the field,” King said. “I just have to put my mind to it and use my technique.”
And remember what he learned on film.