By Patrick Vint on December 8, 2021 at 4:17 pm
Twitter (@Hassel_Chris)

There's really no subtle way of saying this, so I'm just going to say it: Iowa football just landed the nation's top safety recruit. 


Xavier Nwankpa, the 6'2", 190-pound defensive back from Altoona coveted by every coach in the nation, chose the Hawkeyes over Ohio State and Notre Dame in a televised commitment special on CBS Sports Network Wednesday afternoon.  Nwankpa also held offers from 29 other programs, including Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, LSU and Michigan.

Nwankpa holds a five-star grade, the top ranking for any safety in the nation, and the 11th-highest grade of any PLAYER in the nation at 24/7.  Rivals isn't quite so bullish: He's only a five-star, the top safety, and the 20th-best prospect there.  He's Iowa's first five-star commitment since A.J. Epenesa in 2017, and Nwankpa's national rank is actually slightly higher than Epenesa's was; it's also higher than that of Dan Doering, the five-star offensive lineman in Iowa's 2005 class, and Blake Larsen, a 2001 offensive line commit.  Iowa has only had one recruit of this standing commit to the program during Ferentz's tenure, and we're not going to talk about that much here.

Obviously, Nwankpa's size and athleticism make him an ideal candidate to play Iowa's hybrid safety/linebacker "Cash" position.  That spot has become the sole dominion of the team's best pure athlete in the last five years and, well, we've got an athlete for Phil Parker to plug in there.  That might not be the only cash factoring into Nwankpa's decision, though.  According to the DMR:

Iowa can offer Nwankpa the most in terms of name, image and likeness opportunities as a home-state product.  All Iowa needs to do is point to the NIL success of women's basketball star Caitlin Clark, who was also a once-in-a-decade type talent to pick her home-state school.

While that remains to be seen, there is little doubt that Iowa can offer the best opportunity to play early, at a position where Ferentz and Parker have shown an ability to usher players into the NFL.  The track record here matters, and Parker's work in particular stands on its own merit.

Nwankpa played for the Class 5A state champions at Southeast Polk, which brings us to the next Most Important Thing from his commitment: He's not the only top-level prospect at his high school.  Class of 2023 offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor is currently ranked in the National Top Ten.  He's the top offensive tackle in the country.  He's getting chased all over the countryside by Doug Marrone on behalf of Nick Saban and Matt Barnes for Ryan Day.  But there is only going to be one team with his former five-star high school teammate of his on it.

Welcome to Iowa City, Xavier.  It's always a great day to be a Hawkeye, but this one is particularly sweet.

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