Iowa football depth chart: First glance shows youth in key spots on defense
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz released his first depth chart of the 2020 football season Thursday, providing some clarity to how the coaching staff is viewing competition for playing time leading up to the Oct. 24 season-opener at Purdue.
Chauncey Golston was the one returning starter, and the senior is listed as the left end. Joining him atop the depth chart are Daviyon Nixon and Austin Schulte as the tackles, and Zach VanValkenburg as the right end. Redshirt freshman Logan Lee, who converted from tight end a year ago, has made the leap to become Golston's backup. Joe Evans is the other second-string defensive end. John Waggoner, who played at end last year, is now listed as the backup tackle to Schulete, a senior. Jack Heflin, a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois, is the other backup tackle, with Noah Shannon a third option. Defensive line is one of the biggest questions marks for the Hawkeyes this fall, as they look to replace NFL Draft pick A.J. Epenesa's pass-rushing skills.
The depth chart lists three, even though the team often only uses two. Sophomore Jack Campbell is getting the first crack at replacing Kristian Welch in the middle. Senior Nick Niemann is the starter on the weak side. Barrington Wade is atop the "Leo" position, with Dane Belton backing him up when Iowa wants to use a "cash" safety in a 4-2-5 alignment, which is more likely. Belton handled that role last year as a true freshman. Other backup linebackers are sophomore Seth Benson and redshirt freshman Jestin Jacobs, highlighting the relative youth in that position group after Djimon Colbert opted not to compete this season over COVID-19 concerns and Dillon Doyle transferred to Baylor.
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Belton is also listed as Iowa's starting strong safety, which illuminates that Iowa is still looking for more options there. Jack Koerner, back from an offseason injury in a watercraft accident, has reclaimed his starting spot at free safety. Cornerbacks are Matt Hankins and Riley Moss, with Julius Brents and Terry Roberts behind them. Backup safeties are Sebastian Castro and Kaevon Merriweather. Five of the eight players listed are freshmen or sophomores.
There are some surprises in this group as well, with junior Mark Kallenberger listed as the starter at right tackle over graduate transfer Coy Cronk, who started 40 games at Indiana. They are in competition to replace first-round NFL Draft pick Tristan Wirfs. Senior Alaric Jackson is the left tackle for a fourth consecutive season, a luxury for Iowa as it breaks in a new starting quarterback. Starting guards are Cody Ince and Kyler Schott, backed up by young Iowa natives Luke Empen and Noah Fenske. Cole Banwart, a senior coming off of knee surgery, was left off the two-deep, but Ferentz said later that was just an oversight on his part. Banwart is in the mix to get his starting job back. The center spot will be manned again by Tyler Linderbaum, with promising redshirt freshman Justin Britt as his understudy.
There are no surprises elsewhere on what could be a high-powered Hawkeye offense. The depth chart lists only two wide receiver spots, plus a fullback, but there's no question Iowa will line up three or four wideouts more often. The starters are seniors Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. The backups are Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini. All four are proven talents and will play. The starting tight end is Sam LaPorta, with senior Shaun Beyer behind him. Again, both will see extensive action. The team's new starting quarterback is redshirt sophomore Spencer Petras, who replaces three-year starter Nate Stanley. Redshirt freshman Alex Padilla backs him up. The starting tailback is explosive sophomore Tyler Goodson, followed by upperclassmen Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Sophomore Monte Pottebaum is listed as the first fullback Iowa will try after losing Brady Ross to graduation. Turner Pallisard is the second option.
Tory Taylor, a 23-year-old Australian new to the American style of football, has apparently done enough to win the punting job. He is listed ahead of Ryan Gersonde, with no "OR" designation. At kicker, as expected, will be returning all-American Keith Duncan. Max Cooper is scheduled to return punts and Smirh-Marsette is still on-hand as one of the nation's most dangerous kickoff returners. Austin Spiewak will handle long-snapping duties.
IOWA FOOTBALL DEPTH CHART (Oct. 8, 2020):
Spencer Petras 6-5 231 Rs So.
Alex Padilla 6-1 198 Rs. Fr.
Tyler Goodson 5-10 200 So.
Mekhi Sargent 5-9 209 Rs Sr.
Ivory Kelly-Martin 5-10 204 Rs Jr.
Monte Pottebaum 6-1 244 Rs So.
Turner Pallisard 6-0 248 Rs. So.
Brandon Smith 6-2 215 Sr.
Tyrone Tracy Jr. 5-11 203 Rs So.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette 6-1 179 Sr.
Nico Ragaini 6-0 193 Rs So.
Sam LaPorta 6-4 249 So.
Shaun Beyer 6-5 248 Rs Sr.
Alaric Jackson 6-6 315 Rs Sr.
Jack Plumb 6-7 293 Rs So.
Cody Ince 6-4 285 Rs. So.
Luke Empen 6-4 287 Rs So.
Tyler Linderbaum 6-3 289 Rs So.
Justin Britt 6-3 290 Rs Fr.
Kyler Schott 6-2 293 Rs Jr.
Noah Fenske 6-4 307 Rs Fr.
Mark Kallenberger 6-5 290 Rs Jr.
Coy Cronk 6-5 305 Rs Sr.
Keith Duncan 5-10 179 Rs Sr.
Caleb Shudak 5-8 178 Rs Sr.
Chauncey Golston 6-5 270 Rs Sr.
Logan Lee 6-5 267 Rs Fr.
Daviyon Nixon 6-3 305 Rs Jr.
Jack Heflin 6-4 312 Rs Sr.
Noah Shannon 6-0 288 Rs So.
Austin Schulte 6-4 283 Rs Sr.
John Waggoner 6-5 271 Rs So.
Zach VanValkenburg 6-4 270 Rs Sr.
Joe Evans 6-2 248 Rs So.
Barrington Wade 6-1 236 Rs Sr.
Dane Belton 6-1 205 So.
Jack Campbell 6-5 243 So.
Seth Benson 6-0 231 Rs So.
Nick Niemann 6-4 233 Rs Sr.
Jestin Jacobs 6-4 235 Rs Fr.
Matt Hankins 6-0 180 Sr.
Julius Brents 6-3 204 Rs So.
Dane Belton 6-1 205 So.
Sebastian Castro 5-11 197 Rs Fr.
Jack Koerner 6-0 205 Rs Jr.
Kaevon Merriweather 6-0 205 Rs So.
Riley Moss 6-1 191 Jr.
Terry Roberts 5-10 177 Rs So.
Tory Taylor 6-4 225 Fr.
Ryan Gersonde 6-4 194 Jr.
Nick Phelps 5-10 207 So.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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