Meet Iowa football's robust 2018 class of walk-on recruits

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa director of football recruiting Tyler Barnes used the word "unprecedented" to characterize the walk-on class the program is bringing aboard.

Unprecedented at Iowa. And maybe anywhere else, too.

The Hawkeyes are bringing in 20 walk-ons in their recrutiing Class of 2018; 10 of them turned down scholarship offers from elsewhere.

Dowling Catholic linebacker Mitch Riggs (44) led Class 4-A in tackles this fall and will join 19 others in the Hawkeyes' walk-on class of 2018.

“They’re kind of an afterthought at most schools," Barnes says. "We’re a different program. Our tradition of walk-ons here is something to be proud of.”

With that in mind, let's take a look at the 20 walk-ons in Iowa's Class of 2018 that'll join the 23 scholarship athletes that were announced Wednesday.

Nick Anderson

Linebacker: 6-3, 230, Waukee (Iowa Western C.C.)

Of note: Logged 80 tackles as a freshman for Iowa Western. Turned down FCS offers to join program in January. Has two years of eligibility remaining. "Very smart and will work extremely hard," Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier says.

Blair Brooks

Wide receiver: 6-2, 180, Cedar Rapids (Marion H.S.)

Of note: Marion High School's all-time leading receiver happnes to be the grandson of Bob Brooks, the late (and legendary) Iowa broadcaster. A state champion high jumper and long jumper. “Unbelievable track athlete," Barnes says. "Incredibly explosive. Good hands."

John Carlson

Linebacker: 6-3, 200, Bondurant (Bondurant-Farrar H.S.)

Of note: Big, athletic frame that has versatility to play inside or outside linebacker. Caught 39 passes for 915 yards and 10 TDs on offense as a senior.

Colton Dinsdale

Linebacker: 6-0, 215, Reinbeck (Iowa Western C.C.)

Of note: Lifelong Hawkeye fan has two years of eligibility remaining, enrolled this semester. "He is a football player," Strohmeier says. "We couldn't keep him off the field on defense or special teams."

Luke Empen

Tight end/offensive line: 6-5, 230, Clinton (Northeast Goose Lake H.S.)

Of note: You've seen this type of story at Iowa before. A large, skill-position guy with room to grow into perhaps an offensive lineman. "A great basketball player with a big frame," Barnes says. "We’ll start him at tight end, and see where his body takes him."

Joe Evans

Linebacker: 6-2, 210, Ames (Ames H.S.)

Of note: Grew up a Hawkeye fan in Ames. Cancelled an official visit to Iowa State to jump on the Hawkeyes' walk-on offer. Three-year starting QB at Ames could, at minimum, become a special-teams contributor.

Matt Fagan

Offensive line: 6-5, 265, Council Bluffs (St. Albert H.S.)

Of note: One of many Hawkeye walk-ons to turn down multiple FCS scholarship offers (UNI, South Dakota). “Great big body. Finishes on tape," Barnes says. "A guy we’re excited about.”

Jake Morrison

Linebacker: 6-2, 205, Waukee (Waukee H.S.)

Of note: Now one of six Waukee natives on the Hawkeye roster after having a huge year at defensive end (15½ tackles for loss, 10½ sacks). Turned down some Division II scholarships.

Nathan Nelson

Defensive end: 6-3, 230, Waukee (Waukee H.S.)

Of note: The name should sound familiar. Dad Jeff played at Iowa in the early 1990s; brother Anthony stars now for the Hawkeyes at defensive end. Turned down scholarship offer from D-2 powerhouse Northwest Missouri State.

Turner Pallissard

Fullback: 6-1, 220, Frankfort, Ill. (Lincoln Way East H.S.)

Of note: Attended the same high school as former all-Big Ten offensive lineman Adam Gettis. “He’s going to look similar to (outgoing fullback) Drake Kulick already when he gets here," Barnes says. "Big kid.”


Monte Pottebaum

Fullback/linebacker: 6-0, 210, Larchwood (West Lyon H.S.)

Of note: Could fit the mold of the prototypical fullbacks that Iowa consistently. "He’s just a beast all over the field," Barnes says. "When you pop on the film, you get excited."

Mitch Riggs

Linebacker: 6-1, 230, West Des Moines (Dowling Catholic H.S.)

Of note: Had a monster season for the annual state-champion Maroons, with a Class 4-A-best 122½ tackles (99 solo). Joins high-school teammate John Waggoner, a four-star defensive end, in this class.

Connor Ruth

Fullback: 5-11, 215, Malcolm, Neb. (Seward H.S.)

Of note: Two uncles, Joel and Jeff Makovicka, were four-year lettermen at Nebraska in the mid-1990s as walk-on fullbacks. His father, Royce, played fullback at Nebraska-Kearney. Committed to Iowa in September.

Brian Sadler

Offensive/defensive line: 6-1, 285, Jesup (Jesup H.S.)

Of note: Has the ability to play on either side of the ball. Also the state's top-ranked heavyweight wrestler in Class 1-A. "We’ll start him O-line and see where he goes from there," Barnes says.

Jaden Snyder

Defensive back: 6-1, 205, Larchwood (West Lyon H.S.)

Of note: Supposedly faster and longer than older brother Brandon, a fifth-year senior safety at Iowa. Turned down three FCS offers. Iowa plans to put him at safety, just like Brandon.

Kyle Sorensen

Offensive line: 6-6, 250, Waukee (Waukee H.S.)

Of note​​​​​​​:  Turned down FCS offers from UNI and Western Illinois. "He’s like the Cole Croston story," Barnes says. "(An) underdeveloped guy right now with a big frame, but just a nasty guy on tape."

Kordell Stillmunkes

Running back: 5-9, 180, Hazel Green, Wis. (Cuba City H.S.)

Of note​​​​​​​:  Blazed a 4.41-second 40-yard dash in Iowa's summer camp. Suffered a broken foot in Week 4 as a senior. "He’s rehabbing. He’ll be good to go," Barnes says. "But he can really, really run."

Ben Subbert

Tight end: 6-3, 235, Williamsburg (Williamsburg H.S.)

Of note​​​​​​​: Has potential to be one of those great walk-on stories at a familiar position at Iowa. Brother, Jackson, is a Hawkeye long snapper. "We’ve seen him a ton," Barnes says. "A guy we’re really excited about getting here and getting to work.”

Mike Timm

Linebacker: 6-1, 220, Delafield, Wis. (Kettle Moraine H.S.)

Quick facts: Like Riggs, a massive-producing inside linebacker (142 tackles, 20 for losses as a senior). Turned down a walk-on opportunity at Michigan and a scholarship at South Dakota State. "He’s just a beast all over the field," Barnes says. "... Fits exactly what we’re about here.”

Trey Winters

Offensive line: 6-5, 315, Ankeny (Centennial H.S.)

Quick facts: The son of former Iowa basketball player James Winters is Iowa's biggest recruit in the Class of 2018, walk-on or scholarship. "Very athletic family," Barnes says. "He’ll be fun. He’ll have fun with that O-line group for sure, bring a little personality to those guys."