The graduations of Matt Nelson, Parker Hesse, and Sam Brincks, plus the early departure of Anthony Nelson to the NFL Draft, has left Iowa a bit thin on the defensive line and created a glaring need to add some depth to the line. Some of that depth is going to have to come from internal development and possibly from an incoming freshman or two -- but this weekend we found out that they'll be getting some depth from a graduate transfer source as well. Defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg announced that he's transferring to Iowa to finish his college career:
— Zach VanValkenburg (@zach_vanvalk) February 16, 2019
VanValkenburg is a rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining (he redshirted as a freshman and finished his undergraduate degree in three years), so Iowa should have him around for more than just the 2019 season. VanValkenburg does hail from an unlikely source, though -- Division II Hillsdale College in southern Michigan. Per Rivals, he chose Iowa over interest from in-state Michigan State; grabbing a player that Sparty thought was good enough to help them seems promising.
What also seems promising is the fact that VanValkenburg, listed at 6'4", 266 lbs, was utterly dominant last year: he had 70 tackles, 14.5 TFL, and 8.5 sacks, a performance that saw him named Defensive Lineman of the Year by the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Also promising? His highlights:
He shows off a good first step there, some solid closing speed, and -- oh yeah -- some absolutely ferocious tackling ability. I'm guessing GMAC offensive players will be very happy to not see him lining up opposite them next fall.
At Hillsdale College, VanValkenburg played on the edge a lot, but at Iowa he could play either end or tackle. I'd be surprised if we didn't see him as part of Iowa's third-down pass rush unit, frankly. How much other playing time he gets is probably dependent on how quickly he picks up Iowa's schemes, how well he holds up against the run at the Big Ten level, and how things develop with the rest of Iowa's options on the defensive line. At the very least, though, he looks like an intriguing addition that provide a nice spark to Iowa's pass rush. Welcome aboard, Mr. VanValkenburg.