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Iowa football depth chart: First glance shows youth in key spots on defense

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

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.

Some highlights:

Defensive line

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.

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Tyler Goodson, in his sophomore season, has risen to the top of Iowa's depth chart at running back. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz released his first look of the 2020 season at his team's two-deeps Thursday. The opener is Oct. 24 at Purdue.

Linebackers

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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Defensive backs

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.

MORE:Kaevon Merriweather had bumpy debut, but keeps grip on Hawkeye free safety job

Offensive line

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.

Skill positions

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.

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Special teams

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):

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Spencer Petras    6-5    231    Rs So.

Alex Padilla          6-1    198    Rs. Fr.

Running back

Tyler Goodson    5-10    200    So.

Mekhi Sargent    5-9       209    Rs Sr.

Ivory Kelly-Martin    5-10    204    Rs Jr.

Fullback

Monte Pottebaum    6-1    244    Rs So.

Turner Pallisard    6-0    248    Rs. So.

Wide receiver

Brandon Smith    6-2    215    Sr.

Tyrone Tracy Jr.    5-11    203    Rs So.

Wide receiver

Ihmir Smith-Marsette    6-1    179    Sr.

Nico Ragaini    6-0    193    Rs So.

Tight end

Sam LaPorta    6-4    249    So.

Shaun Beyer    6-5    248    Rs Sr.

Left tackle

Alaric Jackson    6-6    315    Rs Sr.

Jack Plumb    6-7    293    Rs So.

Left guard

Cody Ince    6-4    285    Rs. So.

Luke Empen    6-4    287    Rs So.

Center

Tyler Linderbaum    6-3    289    Rs So.

Justin Britt    6-3    290    Rs Fr.

Right guard

Kyler Schott    6-2    293    Rs Jr.

Noah Fenske    6-4    307    Rs Fr.

Right tackle

Mark Kallenberger    6-5    290    Rs Jr.

Coy Cronk    6-5    305    Rs Sr.

Kicker

Keith Duncan    5-10    179    Rs Sr.

Caleb Shudak    5-8    178    Rs Sr.

DEFENSE

Left end

Chauncey Golston    6-5    270    Rs Sr.

Logan Lee    6-5    267    Rs Fr.

Left tackle

Daviyon Nixon    6-3    305    Rs Jr.

Jack Heflin    6-4    312    Rs Sr.

Noah Shannon    6-0    288    Rs So.

Right tackle

Austin Schulte    6-4    283    Rs Sr.

John Waggoner    6-5    271    Rs So.

Right end

Zach VanValkenburg    6-4    270    Rs Sr.

Joe Evans    6-2    248    Rs So.

Leo/Cash    

Barrington Wade    6-1    236    Rs Sr.

Dane Belton    6-1    205    So.

Middle linebacker

Jack Campbell    6-5    243    So.

Seth Benson    6-0    231    Rs So.

Weakside linebacker

Nick Niemann    6-4    233    Rs Sr.

Jestin Jacobs    6-4    235    Rs Fr.

Left cornerback

Matt Hankins    6-0    180    Sr.

Julius Brents    6-3    204    Rs So.

Strong safety

Dane Belton    6-1    205    So.

Sebastian Castro    5-11    197    Rs Fr.

Free safety

Jack Koerner    6-0    205    Rs Jr.

Kaevon Merriweather    6-0    205    Rs So.

Right cornerback

Riley Moss    6-1    191    Jr.

Terry Roberts    5-10    177    Rs So.

Punter

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 memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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