Hawkeye filmroom: Dowling Catholic's John Waggoner has ideal pass-rusher traits for Iowa's scheme

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

In case you somehow haven’t heard: The state’s top prospect, defensive end John Waggoner, will sign with Iowa this week. The Dowling Catholic senior picked the Hawkeyes over Minnesota, UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa State and Penn State.

Dowling Defender John Waggoner (94) makes a tackle on  Urbandale Quarterback luke Llewellyn (4) as he throws the ball out of bounds on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a playoff game between the Urbandale J-Hawks and the Dowling Catholic Maroons at Urbandale High School.

Waggoner, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound multi-sport athlete at Dowling, amassed 11 solo tackles for loss and five solo sacks this season. He was named to the Register’s All-Iowa Elite Team.

The 247Sports composite gives him four stars and ranks him the No. 21 weak-side defensive end in the class. Rivals also gives him four stars and ranks him the class’ No. 16 strong-side defensive end.

A strong junior campaign with 12 solo tackles for loss and eight solo sacks catapulted Waggoner’s recruiting stock last offseason. There are questions as to why he didn’t match that production as a senior. But when he was on his game this year, there wasn’t a better defensive end in Iowa.

Waggoner hasn’t put out a full senior season film. He does have tape from select games during the season, though. So, for this Hawkeye film room session, we’ll highlight what stands out from each of those games.

Ankeny Centennial

This was a 44-7 win in the Class 4A state semifinals. Waggoner goes unblocked in the first two clips, but they demonstrate his ability to wreak havoc with his combination of size, length and speed. (He runs a 4.8-second 40-yard dash, according to his Hudl.) First is a blind-side sack, and second is a pass deflection. He showcases more of his technical skills with an inside move in the third clip. In this, he shows his violent hands: He starts outside before shifting quickly inside to get the offensive tackle off-balance, and then Waggoner utilizes long arms to swat the tackle away before he has a chance to grab him.


This was a 13-10 win in the 4A state quarterfinals. In the first clip, Waggoner shows finesse with a swim move of sorts: He grabs high on the offensive tackle while sinking his hips — which draws the tackle’s shoulders forward — before using strong arms to shove his blocker down and get pressure on the quarterback. You only see Waggoner in the end of the second clip: He wasn’t able to get by his blocker, but he shed him in time to hit the quarterback, who was rolling out to his side of the line. In the fourth and fifth clips, Waggoner sets a strong edge in rush defense. In the sixth clip, he powers through two blockers to tackle a running back for a 3-yard loss. We expect that kind of bull-rushing ability from a kid his size.

West Des Moines Valley

This was a 42-12 win in Week 3. In the first clip, Waggoner shows his lateral quickness and solid explosion on Dowling's twist up front. In the second clip, he disrupts two pass attempts despite facing a double team. In the third clip, Waggoner shows off his agility and shoves past an offensive tackle who couldn't get hands on him fast enough.


This was a 42-18 win in Week 1. More strong pass-rushing in the first clip: Waggoner first tries an outside move, which doesn't work, before swiping the offensive tackle aside for an inside lane to the quarterback. He actually lines up at defensive tackle in the fourth clip. His route to the backfield is clogged, but he sticks with the play, finds his way to the ball and tackles the quarterback after a 2-yard gain. In the seventh clip, Waggoner demonstrates his athleticism by lining up as a slot receiver and running an out route for a 15-yard gain. (He caught six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown this season.) In the eighth clip, he powers through a block to set the edge on a rush attempt. 

Power and agility. Size and finesse. The traits that Iowa loves in its defensive ends. 

That's John Waggoner. 

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.