• Travis Thornburgh

2019 Football Preview: Defensive Line

We continue our look at the 2019 Iowa Hawkeyes, this time with the big fellas that will be pressuring opposing quarterbacks and providing the anchor for the Iowa Defense: the Defensive Line.

Defensive Line

Returners - 2018 Statistics:

Brady Reiff, Senior - 5 Solo Tackles, 7 Assists, 1 Sack

Cedrick Lattimore, Senior - 9 Solo Tackles, 12 Assists, 1 Sack

Chauncey Golston, Junior - 19 Solo Tackles, 16 Assists, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Interception, 1 Pass Deflection, 3 Fumbles Recovered

A.J. Epenesa, Junior - 21 Solo Tackles, 16 Assists, 10.5 Sacks, 3 Pass Deflections, 4 Forced Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Touchdown

Dallas Jacobus, Junior

Austin Schulte, Junior

Daviyon Nixon, Sophomore

Nathan Nelson, Redshirt Freshman

Ben Subbert, Redshirt Freshman

John Waggoner, Redshirt Freshman

Noah Shannon, Redshirt Freshman

Departures - 2018 Statistics:

Parker Hesse - 29 Solo Tackles, 29 Assists, 4 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Fumble Recovery

Sam Brincks - 6 Solo Tackles, 11 Assists

Matt Nelson - 15 Solo Tackles, 16 Assists, 1 Sack, 6 Pass Deflections

Anthony Nelson - 23 Solo Tackles, 22 Assists, 9.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Touchdown

Garret Jansen (Transfer) - 2 Assists

Brandon Simon (Transfer)

Tyler Linderbaum (Position Change)

Jake Morrison

Jack Kallenberger


Zach VanValkenburg, Junior - Transfer from Hillsdale College - 33 Tackles, 37 Assists, 8.5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles

Amani Jones, Senior (Listed as the backup DE behind Epenesa) - 15 Solo Tackles, 7 Assists, 1 Sack

Logan Lee - Orion, Illinois (Also Listed as a TE)

Spencer Daufeldt - West Liberty, Iowa

Taajhir McCall - Pensacola, Florida

Jake Karchinski - DePere, Wisconsin

Chris Reames - Van Meter, Iowa

Louie Stec - LaGrange Park, Illinois

Outlook at the Position: The story for the defensive line this year will be how quickly can they develop depth behind the starters. With the departure of Hesse, M. Nelson, A. Nelson, and Sam Brincks, Iowa loses all four of the starters from a year ago. Iowa returns all the backups, namely Epenesa, Reiff, Lattimore, and Golston, from a year ago for a group that consistently played an 8 man rotation. These returners will likely serve as the starters for this year's defensive line, providing a solid nucleus of experience and skill. As such, success for this unit will be driven by how will quickly depth develops behind those starters. The addition of Amani Jones as a defensive end to the fall depth chart is interesting to me because it gives the backups a little more experience and Jones was an effective run-stopper in his time at linebacker. Jones could serve as a stop gap as the young guys behind the starters develop.

Ultimately, I see this unit being a solid unit with some growing pains. I think Epenesa will step into a starting role very effectively and give opposing teams nightmares. I've seen flashes from both Golston and Lattimore that make me think they will be a formidable tandem on the left side of the defensive line. Reiff has been solid throughout his career at Iowa and should transition well to starting. Beyond the starters, Iowa has the talent to have a really good backup group, the key will be how fast can they adjust to game speed at the collegiate (and Division 1 level in the case of VanValkenburg). I think the names to watch in that backup group are Zach VanValkenburg, Noah Shannon, and Daviyon Nixon as the year progresses.

Potential Emerging Contributors: As I mentioned above, the defensive line starters are a known commodity. They have all played key backup roles in their time at Iowa and should slot nicely into starting roles. The up-and-comers on this defensive line will be the backups, and I expect two guys to emerge above the rest: Zach VanValkenburg and Daviyon Nixon.

VanValkenburg is a graduate transfer from Division 2 Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, Michigan). As a redshirt sophomore at Hillsdale, VanValkenburg was named the defensive lineman of the year in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and served as a very productive anchor for the Hillsdale defensive line, compiling 70 total tackles during his sophomore campaign. At 6-4, 266 pounds, VanValkenburg seems to fit the physical mold of what Iowa is looking for and was highly productive at the Division 2 level. I look for him to slot in behind Chauncey Golston at Left Defensive End.

We've been hearing about Daviyon Nixon for a while now. A late offer recruit out of high school in the 2016 class, Nixon has yet to see the field in Black and Gold due to some academic concerns that he sorted out during a year playing football at Iowa Western Community College. At 6-3, 306 pounds, Nixon has the physique to be a force on the inside of the Iowa defensive line. He is deceptively quick for his size, and every report I have ever seen about Nixon is that he has the skill set and potential to be an outstanding defensive tackle, with a ceiling that would match some of the best tackles of the Ferentz Era. I look for him to get his feet under him this year and make an impact. Thank you as always for reading! If there is something that you think I missed, feel free to let me know, as I am always interested in seeing what others think about this upcoming Iowa season.

Next Up: Iowa's 2019 Linebacking Crew

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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!

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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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