The defensive line will look completely different from last season’s unit that featured three seniors and one redshirt junior. It will also not be nearly as deep with the departure of a few players and the switch of Tyler Linderbaum to the offensive side of the ball. Regardless, this unit should be strong as the first wave of defensive lineman played plenty of snaps this past season with the Iowa football team. It also helps that the Hawks feature one of the best players in the country in AJ Epenesa who will be making his starting lineup debut after tearing it up with the reserves for two seasons.
Right Defensive End
- AJ Epenesa – Epenesa is on our All-American watch list for the upcoming season after he had an incredible season in route to being named All-Big Ten as a second-string sophomore. This kid was basically unstoppable as a pass rusher last season. Imagine what another year with Chris Doyle will do for him. Watch out Big Ten.
- Austin Schulte – This guy has been back and forth from defense to offense back to defense, but with the limited amount of experience on the defensive side of the ball, I believe the Pella, Iowa native will stick here finally. He’s got good size at 6’4”, 275 pounds and has been in the system for going on four years.
- Brady Reiff – The younger brother of former first-round pick Riley Reiff, Brady Reiff is ready to finally to be a starter. After sitting out the first game last year due to a suspension, he was a valuable rotation player on the defensive line and even managed to make PFF’s Big Ten team of the Week one week (granted it was against UNI). He has shown the ability to rush the passer at times and despite being just 6’3” has shown a knack for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage (he had three passes defensed in 2017).
- Cedrick Lattimore – Much like Reiff, Lattimore has been patiently waiting for the seniors Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks to graduate before getting his shot in the starting rotation. He’s already shown glimpses of his potential racking up 21 tackles and 1 sack in limited playing time last season.
- Daviyon Nixon* – There is an asterisk here because nobody knows where Nixon will be out next year. He entered the transfer portal but has yet to announce a decision. Kirk seems to think there is a chance that he is back. If so, he will be the first guy off the bench in the defensive line rotation.
- Noah Shannon – Shannon is a big boy standing 6’1” and carrying around 300 pounds. The former three-star recruit will be a redshirt freshman this year and could be one of the surprise impact players this season on the defensive line. That being said, this is a total projection as we have yet to see any live game action of Shannon.
Left Defensive End
- Chauncey Golston – I know it’s tough to see all four defensive linemen go, especially Anthony Nelson, and while most people are excited about Epenesa’s potential (as am I), look out for Golston. This guy is a player and is going to be a stud on the line this season. Whenever he was in the game, he was making plays this past season. This past year (his sophomore season), he had 35 tackles (9 of which were for a loss) and 3.5 sacks to go along with 1 interception and 3 fumbles recovered. This guy was always around the ball.
- John Waggoner – When discussing Iowa’s line depth, people seem to forget about this four-star recruit from West Des Moines, Iowa. At just 245 pounds coming into college, Chris Doyle had some work to do to put weight on his 6’5” frame, but after a year in the Iowa football program, I have no doubt weight isn’t an issue anymore. Athletically speaking, this kid has what it takes to excel at the next level. He also lettered in soccer and basketball in high school (keeping in mind that there are a lot of kids at Valley High School so that’s not exactly easy to do).