Iowa closed out their nine-win regular season with a 49-24 clubbing of the USC Trojans in the 2019 Holiday Bowl and what’s more, they did it with a relatively young team. Of the 22 players listed on Iowa’s depth chart, only eight were seniors. That means, absent any early entries to the NFL Draft, they would return around 64% of their starters. Good news!
The bad news is that there are going to be early departures. In fact, one has already been confirmed in Geno Stone. A.J. Epenesa will probably be another. As could Tristan Wirfs. More bad news: one of the graduating seniors is Nate Stanley, one of the most statistically acclaimed quarterbacks in Iowa history. For thoroughness, the graduating seniors on Iowa’s final 2019 depth chart were:
- QB: Nate Stanley
- FB: Brady Ross
- TE: Nate Wieting
- LG: Landan Paulsen
- LDT: Cedrick Lattimore
- RDT: Brady Reiff
- MLB: Kristian Welch
- RCB: Michael Ojemudia
You’re clearly losing a lot of production with Stanley on the way out. With Ross, Wieting, and Paulsen you’re losing a group of guys who were better blockers than anything else (this statement applies more to Ross and Wieting). The defensive losses sting more as Lattimore and Reiff were disruptive forces in the middle, Welch was a dynamic linebacker, and Ojemudia quietly had one of the better seasons I’ve seen from an Iowa cornerback.
With Stone out, Epenesa looking like a sure out and everyone except the people that actually matter saying Wirfs is leaving, that’s three more extremely important players Iowa will lose in 2020. So, what will 2020 look like? Here’s what we think:
QB: Spencer Petras, Sophomore
We’ve made the mistake of assuming that the backup will become the starter in the past (see: Wiegers, Tyler) but Petras is the most logical choice. He’s been with the program the longest and is the only one who has actually seen any in-game action. Plus, he’s 6’5", 230 pounds and actually looks, y’know, pretty darn talented.
RB: Tyler Goodson, Sophomore
Could we see a transfer this offseason between Sargent, Kelly-Martin and Young? All of these guys are D1 talent but Goodson is the straw that stirs the drink. He’s got another gear.
FB: Turner Pallissard, Sophomore
WR: Brandon Smith, Senior
WR: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Senior
Whoever starts at wide receiver doesn’t matter too much for Iowa because Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini are still going to get a lot of touches.
TE: Sam LaPorta, Sophomore
Your most productive tight end in 2019 will be your obvious starter in 2020.
LT: Alaric Jackson, Senior
LG: Cole Banwart, Senior
Banwart is kind of the forgotten man, despite starting two games at right guard last season. He suffered an undisclosed injury and was knocked out for the remainder of the season prior to the Penn State game. With Schott turning into a consistent starter on the right side, we assume that Banwart will reappear on the left. You could potentially see Justin Britt here as well.
C: Tyler Linderbaum, Sophomore
RG: Kyler Schott, Junior
RT: Mark Kallenberger, Junior
I want to list Jack Plumb here but I don’t know what his weight situation will be. He’s only listed as 272 pounds in the Holiday Bowl notes and you can’t have a 272 pound tackle. One can only assume he’ll be heavier this fall but until that’s confirmed it’s Kallenberger, the recruit some considered better than Wirfs, to take his place.
K: Keith Duncan, Senior
WOOOOOOO BABY, ONE LAST RIDE FOR GROZA.
LE: Chauncey Golston, Senior
LT: Daviyon Nixon, Junior
RT: Austin Schulte, Senior
Nixon and Schulte are your presumed starters because they actually started a few games last season.
RE: Joe Evans, Sophomore
Do you know who was tied for second in sacks last season behind Epenesa in 2019? Joe Evans! And this position is a bit of a mess because there are multiple options in Evans, John Waggoner and Zch VanValkenburg. While Evans is just a walk-on that redshirted his freshman year, he looked the part of a potential starter last season. We’ll give him the nod for now.
OLB: Nick Niemann, Senior
CASH: Dane Belton
MLB: Dillon Doyle, Sophomore
WLB: Djimon Colbert, Junior
Aside from weakside linebacker, where Colbert is a returning starter, there are questions. I’ve got Niemann and Belton returning as your respective starters at OLB/CASH and Doyle, who started two games last season, at MLB. Ross thinks that Iowa could want Niemann’s veteran leadership at MLB which would open the door for someone like Barrington Wade or Seth Benson getting involved. The safe bet is assuming that Niemann and Colbert will be starting, with the third linebacker up in the air.
LCB: Matt Hankins, Senior
FS: Jack Koerner, Junior
SS: Kaevon Merriweather, Junior
RCB: DJ Johnson, Sophomore
Hankins and DJ Johnson are essentially returning starters from last season, as they battled for a spot while Ojemudia held steady. The questions at safety are whether Koerner holds his position and who replaces Geno Stone? I’m inclined to think Koerner keeps his job, despite being highly suspect at times. That leaves strong safety, where anyone from Kaevon Merriweather, Dallas Craddieth, or Sebastian Castro will be in the mix. We’re going with Kaevon due to his (slight) experience edge.
P: Ryan Gersonde, Junior
Listen, Gersonde is actually the last punter on the roster so he’ll be your starter until Kirk fills the spot with another graduate transfer.
With the top options returning at running back, wide receiver and tight end, Spencer Petras will have a number of advantages in his adjustment to being a starter. The glaring issue for Iowa is a defense that lost four starters to graduation, a fifth to early departure and will likely lose a sixth in A.J. Epenesa. This means that there will be three new starters on the defensive line, one at linebacker and two in the defensive backfield. Phil Parker will have his work cut out for him in 2020 but as always: In Phil We Trust.
Overall, the 2020 two-deeps could look something like this:
|POS||FIRST STRING||SECOND STRING||POS||FIRST STRING||SECOND STRING|
|QB||SPENCER PETRAS (So)||ALEX PADILLA (RS Fr)||DE||CHAUNCEY GOLSTON (Sr)||JOHN WAGGONER (So)|
|RB||TYLER GOODSON (So)||
TOREN YOUNG (Sr) /
MEKHI SARGENT (Sr)
|DT||DAVIYON NIXON (Jr)||NOAH SHANNON (So)|
|FB||TURNER PALLISSARD (So)||JOE LUDWIG (Jr)||DT||AUSTIN SCHULTE (Sr)||LOGAN LEE (RS Fr)|
|WR||BRANDON SMITH (Sr)||TYRONE TRACY, JR (So)||DE||JOE EVANS (So)||ZACH VANVALKENBURG (Sr)|
|WR||IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE (Sr)||NICO RAGAINI (So)||OLB||NICK NIEMANN (Sr)||BARRINGTON WADE (Sr)|
|TE||SAM LAPORTA (So)||SHAUN BEYER (Sr)||MLB||DILLON DOYLE (So)||JACK CAMPBELL (RS Fr)|
|LT||ALARIC JACKSON (Sr)||JACK PLUMB (So)||WLB||DJIMON COLBERT (Jr)||SETH BENSON (So)|
|LG||COLE BANWART (Sr)||JUSTIN BRITT (So)||CASH||DANE BELTON (So)||SEBASTIAN CASTRO (RS Fr)|
|C||TYLER LINDERBAUM (So)||JEFF JENKINS (So)||LCB||MATT HANKINS (Sr)||JULIUS BRENTS (So)|
|RG||KYLER SCHOTT (Jr)||CODY INCE (So)||FS||JACK KOERNER (Jr)||DALLAS CRADDIETH (So)|
|RT||MARK KALLENBERGER (Jr)||EZRA MILLER (RS Fr)||SS||KAEVON MERRIWEATHER (Jr)||SEBASTIAN CASTRO (RS Fr)|
|LS||???||???||RCB||D.J. JOHNSON (So)||RILEY MOSS (Jr)|
|K||KEITH DUNCAN (Sr)||???||P||RYAN GERSONDE (Jr)||???|
|KR||IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE (Sr)||TYRONE TRACY, JR (So)||PR||MAX COOPER (Sr)||???|
Thoughts? Let's hear 'em.