This morning, junior center James Daniels announced that he was entering the 2018 NFL Draft via his Instagram. The post:
Hawkeye center James Daniels joins Josh Jackson in leaving early for NFL per his instagram. pic.twitter.com/BJZvKO8FZb
— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) January 5, 2018
Daniels started 25 games at Iowa, earning All-American accolades from Campus Insiders, Athlon Sports and Phil Steele in 2016 and was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2017. Daniels was the straw that stirred the drink and a leader on offense. Players to his left or right were shuffled around but he was the constant. Unless he was hampered by injury, he was the anchor and reliable center that held the offensive line together. Now, he’s making the wise decision to go pro. So what now?
Well, here are some possibilities:
C: COLE BANWART (#61, RS Sophomore, 6'4, 295 lbs., Algona, Ottosen, IA)
Banwart entered the season as the second string center and ended the season as the second string center. He redshirted in 2016 and only saw action in blowouts (against Nebraska lol) this year and was laid up with some sort of leg injury during bowl prep. Banwart was your typical 2-star Iowa recruit, who chose the Hawkeyes over the likes of UNI and South Dakota State. Translation: he's the high motor guy that is going to get a shot.
SPENCER WILLIAMS (#63, RS Sophomore, 6’3, 295 lbs., Cedar Falls, Cedar Falls, IA)
Prior to the season starting, it sounded like Spencer Williams was the heir apparent. Per the Emmert piece, he grew up watching Marshal Yanda and was named one of the Iowa Eight by the Des Moines Register. The fact that James Daniels actually requested to be roommates with him following the 2017 Outback Bowl was seen as an indication that he was the chosen one. A 3-star recruit, he chose Iowa over Colorado State, Cornell, Harvard, Minnesota, and Yale. The Ivy League offers are telling and were a good sign, as Kirk Ferentz likes big brains.
So what happened? Well, Wiliams was your preseason backup center but by the time the year started, Cole Banwart took his place. He only saw action in two blowouts and wasn’t even listed as a backup when Banwart was obviously unavailable during the Pinstripe Bowl. Williams may have been the heir apparent but the rotation with Banwart is an indication that taking the starting job isn't going to be as easy as originally thought.
C: LUCAS LEGRAND (#70, Senior, 6'5, 295 lbs., Senior, Dubuque, IA)
LeGrand looked like a sure bet to be the backup center in 2017 but was shifted to tackle when Dalton Ferguson went down with an ACL injury. Unlike Banwart and Williams, LeGrand actually has a couple of starts at center from back in 2016. Despite this, he’s disappeared from the depth chart and only saw limited action this season. He didn’t travel with the team against Iowa State so it’s entirely possible that injuries played a factor in his disappearance.
LG: KEEGAN RENDER (#69, Senior, 6'4, 310 lbs., Indianola, Indianola, IA)
“But Mike he’s the starting left guard.” Well yeah that’s true but he also started at center against Wyoming in Daniels’s absence. If we’re operating under the assumption that Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are the tackles of the future and that one of the Paulsens can actually clinch the starting right guard position, that only leaves center up in the air. A very easy thing to do would be to slide Render over and give Ross Reynolds a shot at holding down left guard. Of all the scenarios, this one seems most likely.
Regardless of who takes his place, the loss of Daniels is a huge one for Iowa. We wish him the best of luck in the NFL and we’ll always wonder how he got into the crowd at Jack Trice so damn fast following the victory over Iowa State: