By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the third consecutive season, Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker is tasked with revamping the Iowa defensive line.
Daviyon Nixon, Chauncey Goltson and Jack Helfin all are gone. The lone remaining starter on Iowa’s defensive line is senior Zach VanValkenburg.
“I’m really excited to see where this group can go,” Parker said. “When you lose some guys, impact players, like Nixon, Chauncey, (Jack) Heflin you sit there and you say, hey, who’s going to be up there at the front. Anytime you’re going to win, you’re going to win with the guys up front. I think we have a good chance of getting eight to 10 of these guys ready.”
Junior John Waggoner, a native of Des Moines, is listed as the other starting defensive end opposite VanValkenburg, while junior Noah Shannon and redshirt freshman Yahya Black are listed as the starting defensive tackles in the spring prospectus.
If Iowa’s new starters follow the new starters of previous years things should go well, a trend that Parker attributed to Iowa’s consistent system and reputation as a developmental program.
“Even though these kids aren’t starting in a game or playing in a game, they are getting some reps in practice – we see some growth,” Parker said. “Obviously, missing last spring hurt these guys, but I think the foundation has always been there. Ray (Braithwaite) does a great job in the weight room with these guys, and they’re all focused on one thing. How can I get better, how can I improve? How can we play as a championship-level team?”
New kid on the block: Breaking into the rotation in Iowa’s secondary is going to be tough sledding for Northern Iowa transfer Xavior Williams.
Iowa returns cornerbacks Matt Hankins, Riley Moss and Dane Belton, as well as safeties Kaevon Merriweather and Jack Koerner.
The only letterman not to return to Iowa for the 2021 season is Julius Brents, who transferred to Kansas State.
Parker said Wednesday that Williams could play either cornerback or safety, but will likely end up at the former.
“With him, he has to understand a little bit what our terminology is, our scheme,” Parker said. “I know he’s played both positions at Northern Iowa, but I think right now he’ll be more of a corner for us. Very excited. Well put together, good footwork and smart kid. Already has his degree and going for another one.”
Williams, a native of Burlington, was twice named first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference while at Northern Iowa.
Pump it up: Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Logan Jones has turned heads in the weight room since arriving at Iowa.
The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Council Bluffs native is listed as Noah Shannon’s backup at one of the defensive tackle spots.
Iowa strength coach Raimond Braithwaite said Wednesday that if Jones can translate his weight room success to the field, he could become a key contributor.
“Logan came in pretty strong, and he’s gotten stronger,” Braithwaite said. “His numbers pretty impressive for a freshman. I think he has a great skillset right now and he’s got potential to be really impactful moving forward. He’s just got to take what he’s developed this past winter and apply it to the on-field side of things.”
Parker, though hesitant, compared Jones to former Hawkeye defensive tackle Mitch King because his Jones’ power, explosiveness and ability to take up space on the interior.
QB evaluations: Quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe is not one t0 offer a high school quarterback prospect a scholarship without having seen them throw in person.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made that impossible, so O’Keefe has had to get creative.
“You try to get some information from people that you know in that area that may have seen somebody throw,” O’Keefe said. “You talk to their high school coach, their throwing coach, anybody else that might actually have an idea what these guys are all about. It might be a coach from an opposing team that they’ve played against or another college coach at a different level that somehow has seen the prospect throw previously. It’s difficult to see or tell exactly what’s going on in all these situations.”