USA Today

Ten Iowa Football Players To Watch for 2017

Ten new Hawkeyes that can make a mark in 2017.

QUARTERBACK NATE STANLEY

He's in line to be the starting quarterback for Iowa in 2017 despite there being an open competition for the job. Stanley did not redshirt his first season in Iowa City even though Tyler Wiegers and Drew Cook were at the coaching staff's disposal. That should tell you everything that you need to know about his outlook and who the coaches feel will take the reins. Stanley was a four-star quarterback according to Scout and was a member of the final Scout300. He comes with a lot of potential and is a terrific all-around athlete evidenced by his ability to throw over 90 mph as a high school pitcher, being a top football recruit, and breaking the all-time scoring record in basketball at his high school.

false

DEFENSIVE TACKLE CEDRICK LATTIMORE

I've been high on Lattimore's ability for a few years now and the Hawkeyes beat out a handful of top programs for his services. He was also a four-star recruit and a member of the Scout300 as a prospect. He's next in line at defensive tackle to take over for Jaleel Johnson and the most likely heir given his body type. He's already up to at least 290 pounds and should be at or above 300 pounds by the season opener in 2017. He played sparingly this year as a true freshman but performed well in those snaps. Lattimore has a bright, bright future.

false

TIGHT END NOAH FANT

He showcased some excellent athleticism and ability as a pass catching weapon in moments this year as a true freshman. Fant is one of the more naturally athletic tight ends the Hawkeyes have had in Kirk Ferentz's tenure which is saying a lot given the history of the position and the NFL pedigree it has produced. He's going to be a heck of a weapon in the passing game before his career is over and the only question is how quickly he can develop as an in-line blocker so that he's able to stay on the field for even more snaps and eliminate any tendencies. 

false

DEFENSIVE END CHAUNCEY GOLSTON

He's the first on the list that redshirted this past season. Golston will be a redshirt freshman in 2017 but he comes with a lot of praise from his teammates and coaches. He was even lauded during fall camp before the 2016 season for his athleticism, ability, motor, and work ethic. The coaching staff is very, very high on what he can do and his quickness and athleticism has even tempted them to move him to linebacker. I think he stays at defensive end and he'll certainly be a weapon as a pass rusher. How much he will play in 2017 is still to be determined but I would be surprised if he isn't used at least to provide depth off the edge. 

false

WIDE RECEIVER DEVONTE YOUNG

The next test for Iowa and next sign in regards to wide receiver development will come from the progress that Devonte Young makes. The players and coaches have had strong compliments for his game already. He did not redshirt this year. Young only played sparingly on offense but was a mainstay on special teams. Not only could he see significant time as a wideout in 2017 but he's a candidate to be the kick and punt returner to replace Desmond King. Jerminic Smith and Matt VandeBerg should have two receiver spots locked up but the other is likely to be up for grabs between Young, Adrian Falconer and Jay Scheel or a possible true freshman if he's ready enough.

false

DEFENSIVE END A.J. EPENESA

This is another defensive lineman on the list which indicates how well they've recruited the defensive line in the past couple classes. Epenesa still has yet to sign a letter of intent, but will do so in February. He's a five-star recruit and has been drawing raves from those watching him so far at the Army Bowl practices in San Antonio. He has a college-ready body and should arrive in Iowa City prepared to make an immediate impact. He will play right away. Defensive end is a loaded position right now for Iowa but he's good enough to still leave his mark. If he can't surpass enough returners at the edge spot to be deserving of enough snaps, I don't think it's out of the question he could slide inside from time to time because it is that important for him to be on the field in 2017 in some capacity. 

false

RUNNING BACK TOKS AKINRIBADE

Akrum Wadley returns but LeShun Daniels graduates leaving snaps to be had in the backfield. It doesn't have to be a total committee as it has been the past few seasons, and it probably won't be. Wadley is a heck of a talent that should get the majority of the carries and touches in the backfield. But in this day and age, there's always going to be at least one more ball-carrier that gets significant touches. I think that will be Akinribade for the Hawkeyes in 2017. He did not redshirt his first season on campus. He has to surpass Derrick Mitchell on the depth chart, which I believe he will do. Mitchell probably maintains his role as the third down back. Akinribade will get his first real chance to shine in 2017.

false 

CORNERBACK MICHAEL OJEMUDIA

The starting cornerbacks will likely be Josh Jackson and Manny Rugamba and we've seen enough of them to know that they should not hold the team back. Both have produced and contributed significantly already and are far from being liabilities. Iowa does use a third cornerback quite a bit with their different sub-packages and it's almost necessary to do so nowadays in the era of all the spread offenses. Ojemudia should get the first shot at being that third cornerback and had a pretty good spring a year ago. He's long and a playmaker and should make everyone know his name in 2017. 

Derek Young/SCOUT

TIGHT END T.J. HOCKENSON

I think there's room for another tight end to emerge a year from now to go alongside of Peter Pekar and Noah Fant. Nate Wieting could get a crack but I think we're going to be impressed by the development of Hockenson. He's another young scholarship player at tight end that signed with Iowa a year ago that is known for his supreme pass catching ability. I think it will be hard to keep him off the field because of that, and with another year in the program and improving as a blocker, I think he's going to be on the field quite a bit. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE BRADY REIFF

Reiff has gotten through the injuries that have held him back so far and is making a statement with his play right now. He was one of the young players that the coaching staff has been most impressed with during practices at the end of the year. He's moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. He'll be in the rotation next year according to defensive coordinator Phil Parker. He's been that impressive. Reiff is still a bit undersized for the spot, at about 255 pounds, but he has about 8 months to tack on more and it's been done before. I think he needs to hit 270-275 before the season starts and that should not be impossible. There's a chance he's still a year away from leaving a huge mark on the Hawkeyes but he's going to be a contributor at defensive tackle before he leaves.

Derek Young/SCOUT

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories