While the 2018 football recruiting is, ranking-wise, one of the best that Iowa has had in several years, as Iowa fans we know very well that the less-heralded guys can become some of the most important guys in a program. And there's no one less-heralded than the walk-ons. But they provide a critical role at a program like Iowa's, serving as valuable depth during practice and, on many occasions, developing into regular starters and contributors. This year's group of walk-ons is one of the largest and arguably most impressive walk-on classes Iowa has assembled, so let's give them a little love.
RB - Kordell Stillemunkes (5-9, 180; Cuba City HS; Hazel Green, WI)
It's typically an uphill battle for walk-ons to see playing time at running back (though not impossible: What up, Paki O'Meara!), but there's going to be a lot of turnover (and opportunity) in the RB ranks with the departures of Akrum Wadley and James Butler. It's always interesting to see a walk-on who's not an Iowan; you have to really want to be here to pay out-of-state tuition.
FB - Connor Ruth (5-11, 215 lbs; Seward HS; Malcolm, NE)
FB - Turner Pallissard (6-1, 220 lbs; Lincoln-Way East HS; Frankfort IL)
FB/LB - Monte Pottebaum (6-0, 210 lbs; West Lyon HS; Larchwood, IA)
Fullback has one of the clearest paths to playing time for a walk-on; Iowa doesn't tend to recruit many actual fullbacks or transition scholarship running backs or linebackers into fullbacks too often. Cult hero Drake Kulick and next year's presumed starter, Brady Ross, both began their Iowa careers as walk-ons. So it should not come as a surprise if we see one or more of these guys on the depth chart in a year or two.
WR - Blair Brooks (6-2, 180 lbs; Marion HS; Cedar Rapids, IA)
Brooks, of course, is the grandson of legendary Iowa broadcaster Bob Brooks and a tremendous athlete, as we profiled last fall. Wide receiver is an ongoing pain point for Iowa football, so odds are they'll cast a wide net for potential contributors next fall. The smart money is on Brooks redshirting next fall, but he could still become a contributor down the road. Riley McCarron began as a walk-on, developed into a productive receiver and returner, and has parlayed that into a practice squad stint with the New England Patriots.
TE - Ben Subbert (6-3, 235 lbs; Williamsburg HS; Williamsburg, IA)
TE/OL - Luke Empen (6-5, 230 lbs; Northeast Goose Lake HS; Clinton, IA)
Tight end is another position where walk-ons can find playing time at Iowa, particularly given Iowa's propensity to play multiple tight ends. Peter Pekar was almost exclusively a blocking tight end, but he still saw quite a bit of action last season. Subbert seems a touch short for tight end at 6-3, but Empen has almost ideal size -- if he doesn't grow into an offensive lineman instead.
OL - Matt Fagan (6-5, 265 lbs; St. Albert HS; Council Bluffs, IA)
OL - Trey Winters (6-5, 315 lbs; Centennial HS; Ankeny, IA)
OL - Kyle Sorenson (6-6, 250 lbs; Waukee HS; Waukee, IA)
OL/DL - Brian Sadler (6-1, 285 lbs; Jesup HS; Jesup, IA)
Offensive line is another well-trod path to the starting lineup for past walk-ons; we don't have to take the Wayback Machine too far into the past to remember Cole Croston or Boone Myers. Croston went all the way from being a walk-on at Iowa to a multi-year starter to a member of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Iowa has quite a few exciting young scholarship offensive linemen, but as we know: they might not all develop as expected and untimely injuries can open up opportunities for unexpected players to step in. Of this group, Winters is particularly intriguing: he's already massive (6-5, 315!) and he has experience playing at Iowa's highest level of high school football with Ankeny Centennial.
DE - Jake Morrison (6-2, 205 lbs; Waukee HS; Waukee, IA)
DE - Nathan Nelson (6-3, 230 lbs; Waukee HS; Waukee, IA)
This walk-on class is all about the Waukee pipeline, as there are three walk-ons from Waukee (and four if you include Nick Anderson, a JUCO linebacker from Iowa Western who's originally from Waukee). Defensive end is one of the deepest positions on the Iowa roster, so even by walk-on standards, these guys are probably aren't close to seeing the field (especially Morrison, who at 6-2, 205 will likely be spending a lot of time with Chris Doyle and the Iowa strength department for the next few years).
LB - Colton Dinsdale (6-0, 212 lbs; Iowa Western CC; Reinbeck, IA)
LB - Nick Anderson (6-3, 230 lbs; Iowa Western CC; Waukee, IA)
LB - Joe Evans (6-2, 210 lbs; Ames HS; Ames, IA)
LB - John Carlson (6-3, 200 lbs; Bondurrant-Farrar HS; Bondurant, IA)
LB - Mitch Riggs (6-1, 230 lbs; Dowling Catholic HS; West Des Moines, IA)
LB - Mike Timm (6-1, 220 lbs; Kettle Moraine HS; Delafield, WI)
Iowa is trying the carpet bombing approach to filling the linebacker position and, hey, why not? You only need one or two to hit for it to be an effective idea. Linebacker is obviously Iowa's biggest need going into next season with three starters in need of replacement, so there's ample opportunity for these walk-ons. It's hard to expect a walk-on to win a starting job right out of the gate, but they could provide quality depth and/or help fill out the coverage teams on special teams, too. The two to watch the most here are probably Dinsdale and Anderson; they're walk-ons who spent some time at Iowa Western Community College and they're already on campus and will be available for spring practice. If any of these walk-ons are going to crack the two-deeps, they probably have the best chance.
DB - Jaden Snyder (6-2, 205 lbs; West Lyon HS; Larchwood, IA)
Snyder's name should seem familiar -- he's the younger brother of current Iowa defensive back Brandon Snyder. He opted to walk on at Iowa over full scholarships from UNI, South Dakota, and South Dakota State. He looks like the sort of recruit that in years past we've seen Iowa get by offering a scholarship on or near Signing Day; this year they managed to get that guy even without offering a scholarship. The elder Snyder said his younger brother is bigger, stronger, and faster than he was at the same point in his career, which is intriguing. Snyder is expected to start as a safety but could develop into a linebacker, particularly with the hybrid linebacker-safety role that Iowa has talked about using recently.
More than most players that Iowa brings in, the walk-ons tend to be ones to file away for future reference. They'll likely need to spend a little extra time in the weight room to develop Big Ten-ready size or strength. But odds are good that some of these names will show up on Iowa depth charts in a few years -- and a few of them will likely become the latest good story that Iowa football always seems to cultivate. Welcome to Iowa, guys.
H/T to Blair Sanderson at Rivals for collecting a lot of information about the walk-ons.