Dane Belton, Iowa football's leader in interceptions, to enter 2022 NFL Draft

The 2021 season was historic for Iowa's defensive backs. On Saturday, the leader in interceptions from that group announced he'll carry that momentum into the NFL Draft.

Junior Dane Belton announced via social media that he's forgoing his senior season to turn pro. For a group that loses seniors in Matt Hankins and Jack Koerner, that's a huge void for the Hawkeye football team to fill. 

Belton earned first-team All-Big Ten honors this season playing the all-important "cash" position, a hybrid safety/linebacker role that's fairly new to Iowa's scheme. On the year, Belton recorded 46 tackles, seven pass deflections and five interceptions.

More:Iowa's secondary dominated in 2020. Could it be even better in 2021?

How does Belton leaving affect the secondary? 

Belton's departure opens up several possibilities for defensive coordinator Phil Parker in determining who will play "cash" next. Those candidates include veteran Sebastian Castro, rising sophomore Cooper DeJean or incoming five-star Xavier Nwankpa

But here's another player to watch: senior Riley Moss, the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, who announced he'll return in 2022. Iowa has reliable options at outside cornerback in Jermari Harris and Terry Roberts, and Moss' blend of physicality and playmaking (10 career interceptions) could make him a quality replacement for Belton. 

More:Leistikow: Projecting Iowa football's starters for the 2022 season

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.