Iowa football: Who’s next in line to replace Amani Hooker

Yesterday afternoon safety Amani Hooker announced his intentions to leave the Iowa football team and declare for the NFL. Here’s who could replace him.

Personally, I was holding out hope that the 2018 Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and AP All-American Amani Hooker would return for his senior year with the Iowa football program, a la Desmond King.

Yesterday afternoon we found out that, in fact, that would not be the case.

Amani Hooker, the junior safety from Minnesota announced his intentions to forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

Here was the was message he posted on his twitter account.

While Hooker will be dearly missed, we wish him the absolute best in the NFL. That being said, it’s now time for the Iowa football team to begin looking for Hooker’s replacement. First though, we should probably acknowledge that nobody can truly replace an Amani Hooker, but someone will need to step into his starting role.

Fortunately, Iowa’s depth chart at safety is strong and ready to fill the void left by Hooker and graduated senior Jake Gervase.

Currently listed on the depth chart behind Hooker is junior John Milani, a former walk-on from Iowa City, Iowa who has played sparingly in his time with the Iowa football program although he did manage to record 11 total tackles this season.

There is also a bevvy of recent recruits who could be itching for a spot  in the safety rotation including:

  • DJ Johnson – This is the guy rumored to be the front-runner for the safety position. Although he struggled through injuries earlier in the season, he was quite impressive to the coaching staff during practices. This Indianapolis, Indiana product could be in line for a lot more playing time this season if he keeps up the strong practices.
  • Dallas Craddieth – Craddieth, the highest rated recruit in the class of 2018, did not see action in a single game this season as he adjusted to the pace of college football. Coming out of high school, Craddieth was the 379th best prospect in the nation and a top three-star recruit. He has an uphill battle as it appears Johnson and Kaevon Merriweather have passed him on the depth chart for now.
  • Kaevon Merriweather – Speaking of Merriweather, this three-star recruit from Belleville, Michigan made quite an impression on the coaching staff and showed enough in his limited time with the Iowa football team to play in enough games this past season to cost him his redshirt. I would consider him to be 1B to Johnson’s 1A at this point.
  • Dane Belton – Belton, a 2019 three-star recruit, is joining the Iowa football team from Tampa, Florida and is ranked as the 766th best player in the class of 2019. While unlikely that he would get playing time right away, as we saw this past year with Riley Moss, anything is possible if you work your tail off in camp.
  • Sebastian Castro – Similar to Belton, Castro is a 2019 three-star recruit from Oak Lawn, Illinois and is the 851st best prospect in the nation. The 6’1′ 198 pound safety boasts good size for an incoming freshman and has been committed to the Hawks since April of 2018.

As you can see there is a lot of talent at the safety position, it’s just a matter of selecting the right player.

Next: 2018 end of season awards for the Iowa football team

Fortunately, the Iowa football program has the next eight months to work through their decisions on this one.