Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash raises his arm as he crosses the goal line after returning an interception for a touchdown, Sat. Oct. 31, 2009, during second half action in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City. (John Schultz / Quad-City Times) John Schultz

IOWA CITY - Even though he's only a sophomore, Tyler Sash long ago stopped being viewed as a young player by Kirk Ferentz.

In truth, Iowa's football coach has begun to think of Sash as one of the best safeties ever to play for the Hawkeyes.

"He's just a good football player," Ferentz said. "He fits the mold of the guys we've had. We've been very fortunate. We've had a lot of good safeties play here. And he's working his way up on that list. It helps to have good safeties when you're trying to play good defense."

Iowa has two good safeties this season in Sash and former Pleasant Valley star Brett Greenwood, but Sash is emerging as perhaps the Hawkeyes' best bet for postseason honors. He was named this week as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in the nation.

He also has begun to etch his name in the record books.

With four games to go in his sophomore season, Sash holds Iowa's career record for interception return yardage. With an 86-yard runback for a touchdown last week, he pushed his two-year total to 350.

Earlier this season, he tied the single-game interception record by picking off three passes against Iowa State.

And the single-season and career interception marks are within reach.

Sash doesn't have any sort of profound explanation for the large number of interceptions.

"I just try to be around the ball," he said earlier this season.

Ferentz said Sash is vastly improved over last fall, when he sometimes was tentative and unsure of himself. It took him a season to get fully acclimated, just as it did with Greenwood.

Now Sash is earning rave reviews not only from Ferentz and other coaches but from his teammates.

"Tyler is a guy who goes out and always is in the right position and just makes plays," Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi said.