IOWA CITY – First comes the competition, and then the decision.
Iowa cornerback Riley Moss is not unlike several of his teammates as the Hawkeyes prepare for Citrus Bowl.
The Big Ten defensive back of the year is contemplating his future plans beyond the final snaps of Saturday’s noon game in Orlando.
The senior from Ankeny, Iowa, could move on and work to take his game to the next level or he could use the extra year of eligibility that all college players received because of the COVID-impacted 2020 season.
Moss has accepted an invitation to participate in next month’s Senior Bowl, but said his commitment only creates that opportunity and can be taken back if he chooses to return to Iowa for one final season.
“My decision is not fully made yet,’’ Moss said Thursday. “I’m going to wait and talk with my family, meet with coach (Kirk) Ferentz and see what the scouts are saying and stuff. I still have a little bit of time to make the decision.’’
If he had to make that call today, Moss said he would likely move on to the next phase in his career.
“If I was going to give a percentage, I would probably say I’m above half for leaving, but I’ve still got some time,’’ Moss said. “I couldn’t give you a specific percentage.’’
He is anxious to sit down with coach Kirk Ferentz and talk things over once Saturday’s noon match-up with Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl is in the rearview mirror.
“The coaches here do a good job of getting information together, good accurate information from the people they know, and I’m interested to hear what they have to say,’’ Moss said.
Ferentz said the information-gathering portion of the annual process has taken place. Moss, and other Hawkeyes in a similar situation, will receive it soon as will their parents.
“When we get back (from the bowl), we’ll have plenty of time for that conversation,’’ Ferentz said. “There’s no urgency. I think a player in Riley’s situation has until February third or fourth. Some of the other guys have until mid-to-late January, so there’s time. I think right now everybody is invested in this game.’’
Moss became the fifth Hawkeye to earn Big Ten defensive back of the year honors with his work this season despite missing two of Iowa’s three losses with a knee injury suffered in an Oct. 9 game against Penn State.
He follows Micah Hyde in 2012, Desmond King in 2015, Josh Jackson in 2017 and Amani Hooker in 2018 in earning the honor.
Like those four, Moss has thrived in a secondary which has led Iowa to intercept 24 passes during its 10-3 season.
Moss picked off four passes this season, becoming the third Hawkeye ever to return two interceptions in a game for touchdowns.
He accomplished that feat in Iowa’s season-opening win over Indiana, among four interceptions he recorded this season and the 239 return yards he has collected with the 10 picks he has as a Hawkeye ranks second in school history.
That all has positioned Moss for a chance to take his game to the next level.
He’s intrigued about that, but not consumed by it or the decision he will have to make.
“I’m not stressed about it because I look at it as kind of a win-win,’’ Moss said. “If I stay, I get to stay and experience Iowa football, which has been my dream since I was a little kid. If I leave, I have the potential to also fulfill a dream I’ve had ever since I was a little kid. There is no wrong answer. It’s not the most nerve-wracking thing ever.’’
Moss’ more immediate concern is dealing with potent Kentucky offense.
The Wildcats have an offensive line that was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s best and is giving the talent behind it time to work.
Receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, a Nebraska transfer, has caught 94 passes for 1,164 yards and seven touchdowns.
Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. has gained 1,272 yards on 205 carries and reached the end zone eight times.
And orchestrating all it is Penn State transfer Will Levis at quarterback. He’s completed 66.5 percent of his 325 passes for 2,693 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“They have a lot of good skill guys and it starts up front with a really good line,’’ Moss said. “We have a lot to get ready for, but I look forward to it. It’s a good match-up for us.’’