Iowa football senior Matt Hankins makes his departure official

An expected Iowa football departure was made official on Friday afternoon. Senior cornerback Matt Hankins declared for the 2022 NFL Draft via his Twitter account.

Hankins thanked his Iowa coaches, teammates and fans but said it's time to pursue a lifelong dream. He had the option of using his COVID year to return to the Hawkeyes.

Hankins was a mainstay in Iowa's secondary since his arrival in 2017. He's leaving Iowa with 44 games played (35 starts), 136 career tackles, 21 pass deflections and six interceptions. In 2021, his three interceptions helped lead Iowa's secondary to a school-record 25 interceptions on the season. 

His brightest spot came in Iowa's biggest contest of the season. Against then-No. 4 Penn State, Hankins recorded five tackles and the game-sealing interception. Afterward, he coined the nickname "Doughboyz" for Iowa's secondary, a nickname that carried through the rest of the season. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against the Nittany Lions. 

Hankins' season ended on a sour note as he missed the final six games of the season due to a shoulder injury. However, his play early on was enough to garner a second-team All-Big Ten selection. 

How does Iowa's cornerback room look without Hankins? 

The impact of Hankins' departure is softened by the return of veteran cornerback Riley Moss. A pro prospect in his own right, Moss decided to return for a final season at Iowa and will surely be listed for every preseason honor before the 2022 season. 

Replacing a four-year starter is never easy, but a successor has already emerged in rising junior Jermari Harris. Harris started down the stretch last season after Hankins' injury and put forth a strong finale in the Citrus Bowl with 4.5 tackles, two pass deflections and one interception late in the fourth quarter. 

Additionally, rising senior Terry Roberts is expected to compete for a starting position and substantial playing time. Rising sophomore Cooper DeJean saw his responsibility grow toward the end of last season. 

Iowa signed two cornerbacks in its 2022 class: three-star recruits TJ Hall and Olando Trader. Hall is already on campus as an early enrollee. 

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.

Iowa defensive back Matt Hankins is acknowledged during a Senior Day ceremony Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.