March 28, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Shaun Prater is stepping up, not stepping out.
The University of Iowa senior cornerback passed on an opportunity to enter the 2011 NFL Draft after the Hawkeyes defeated Missouri, 27-24, in the Insight Bowl. Instead, he returns to Iowa City, where he wants -- among other things -- to prove his leadership ability.
Two of the mainstays in the UI secondary have departed -- free safety Brett Greenwood and strong safety Tyler Sash. But both starting cornerbacks return in Prater and junior Micah Hyde. Prater was named first team all-Big Ten Conference by league coaches and media, the league's Defensive Player of the Week following a 37-6 win against Michigan State on Oct. 30, and he also received team hustle awards for defense and special teams.
"I'm used to stepping up. Since high school I've always had to step up," said Prater, a 2008 graduate of Omaha (Neb.) Central High School. "With college football, you always have to find someone to step up, man up and lead the team. I'm pretty comfortable with that this year."
Prater and the Hawkeyes completed their fourth practice of the spring Sunday and it's a so far-so good situation.
"It's going well and it's going smoothly," Prater said of spring drills. "We have guys who are on different levels and we're trying to make sure everyone gets adjusted to the system. But it's definitely going well."
In 12 games last season, Prater finished second on the team with 50 solo tackles (Hyde had 58) and fifth in total stops with 68. He defended six passes and intercepted four others. Prater considered leaving school with a year of eligibility remaining, but he decided in January to return for his final season.
"The reason I came back is to get bigger and work on my tackling and press coverage," Prater said. "There are a bunch of things I want to correct and fix coming back for my senior year."
Prater has been busy during spring practice, making it a daily ritual to intercept at least one pass and breaking-up several others.
The Hawkeyes have two days off before returning to the practice field Wednesday. That is a welcomed break for Prater.
"This is good," he said. "We have a couple days off and get a chance to rest our bodies and also, you toss in school -- I have a test (Monday). We have a bunch of guys who have tests, so those days off are very critical."
The annual spring practice that is open to the public is Saturday, April 16, beginning at noon (CT).