One big shoe dropped earlier today when A.J. Epenesa announced his plans to forgo his final year at Iowa and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. The other big shoe dropped tonight, as Tristan Wirfs announced his own plans to forgo his final year at Iowa and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
Like Epenesa, Wirfs' decision comes as no real surprise. Wirfs has been projected as a possible first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and one of the top offensive tackle prospects available for pretty much the entire 2019 season. ESPN's mock draft a month ago had Wirfs going near the end of the first round, but USA Today and NBC Sports both had him in the Top 15 and The Athletic and SB Nation both placed him inside the Top 10. Passing up that kind of guaranteed money is awfully hard to do.
Wirfs arrived at Iowa as part of the same 2017 recruiting class as Epenesa, and while Epenesa was the headliner of that class, Wirfs was a very highly-regarded recruit as well. He arrived at Iowa with a 4* ranking and a considerable amount of buzz. That buzz only grew when Wirfs began to see playing time as a true freshman and even emerged as Iowa's starting right tackle midway through the season. He started the final eight games of the 2017 season and started in 12 of Iowa's 13 games in 2018. He finished his career with starts in all 13 games across the 2019 season. While Wirfs emerged at Iowa as a right tackle (he played there exclusively in 2017 and 2018), he slid to left tackle for part of the 2019 season after Alaric Jackson went down with a knee injury early in the year. Wirfs didn't miss a beat as the anchor on the other side of the line and that versatility no doubt endeared him to NFL scouts even further.
Prior to 2019 Wirfs was known as much for his incredible strength and weight room exploits as he was for his on-field play. He went viral last summer when clips of him doing four reps of 450 lbs in the hang clean with ease made the rounds. That earned him a spot atop Bruce Feldman's annual Freaks list highlighting players who display rare (and hugely impressive) physical gifts. Wirfs garnered plenty of recognition for his play in 2019, though. After earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2018, Wirfs was named first team All-Big Ten and as well as Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2019. He was also named to several All-America lists, including those produced by the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Walter Camp Foundation, and the Football Writers Association of America.
Farewell, big fella. It was a pleasure to watch you manhandle pass rushers for the last three seasons. Best of luck to Tristan as he takes his mountainous size and prodigious strength to the next level.