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Iowa Football Class of 2018 Recruiting Positional Overview: Defensive Line

The Hawkeyes have plenty of depth at defensive end, but almost none at tackle. Who are they targeting on the recruiting trail to fill their needs?

Miami Ohio v Iowa
Parker Hesse is one of a trio of returning DEs for the Hawkeyes in both 2017 and 2018.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

With no sport truly in-season, the summer is recruiting season. So, as we get into the doldrums of summer, we’re stepping up our recruiting coverage a bit. We’ve been taking a quick look at the situation at each position group for the Hawkeyes. We look at level of need, top targets and Iowa’s chances of landing a commitment in each group.

This marks the final installment in this series. As a reminder, we’ve taken a look at the linebackers, defensive backs, offensive line, the tight ends, wide receivers, running back recruits and the quarterback prospects. As we progress throughout the summer, these targets will change as guys commit and new offers are extended. Be sure to check in on the home page for all the updates.

Depth Chart

Defensive Line Scholarship Distribution Chart

POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total
POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total
DE Parker Hesse; Matt Nelson Anthony Nelson Chauncey Golston; Romeo McKnight; Austin Schulte; Brandon Simon Levi Duwa; AJ Epenesa 9
DT Nathan Bazata Garrett Jansen; Cedric Lattimore; Jacob Newborg; Brady Reiff 5

The Situation

The defensive line situation is really a tale of the two positions along the line. The defensive end spot is in really solid shape. Following the 2017 season, the Hawkeyes don’t lose anyone to graduation. Between the two Nelsons and Parker Hesse, Iowa has a trio of really solid ends returning from a year ago. But they add to that perhaps the most heralded recruit this millennium in 5-star prospect AJ Epenesa, as well as fellow incoming freshman Levi Duwa. And they also have a slew of RS freshmen who have really great potential. This is one of the deepest positions on the roster at the moment.

That’s a stark contrast to the defensive tackle spot, where Iowa loses both Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakite to graduation heading into 2017 and lose their other mainstay in Nathan Bazata to graduation following this season. That means they’ll be breaking in a new DT who is only a sophomore. Cedric Lattimore is listed in the most recent depth chart as the starter and he’s a guy I think has a ton of upside.

But there are only 5 DTs in total listed on the roster. For a position that’s designed to eat space and blockers, that’s a really thin group. I would expect one or two of the DEs to slide inside (there have been rumors that Epenesa might do this, but that might criminally limit his impact given his fantastic abilities on the edge) or even potentially an offensive linemen to switch sides as the staff looks to just add bodies to get guys a breather in 2017.

In total, I’d expect the Hawkeyes to look at adding 4-5 DL in the class of 2018. Given the situation I just outlined at DT, it follows that there will be a tilt towards adding defensive tackles over ends.

Commitments

Class of 2018 Defensive Line Commits

Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Noah Shannon DT Oswego, IL 6'2" 285
Tyler Linderbaum DT Solon, IA 6'2" 255

Offers

Offers to Uncommitted DL in Class of 2018

Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Michael Thompson DT 6'4" 273 Saint Louis, MO
Trevor Trout DT 6'3" 295 St. Louis, MO
Thomas Booker DT 6'4" 280 Baltimore, MD
Aeneas Hawkins DT 6'3" 260 Cincinnati, OH
Ronnie Perkins SDE 6'4" 260 St. Louis, MO
John Waggoner SDE 6'5" 245 West Des Moines, IA
Malcolm Lamar SDE 6'5" 256 Seffner, FL
Daniel Carson SDE 6'5" 270 Independence, MO

Note: this list only includes players not currently committed to other schools. There are several guys Iowa has offered, but who have already announced a commitment elsewhere. Expect the number of offers to continue growing as the evaluation process moves forward. The summer is a busy time for offers as Iowa likes to get kids on campus for evaluations in camp. It’s also possible some of the kids who committed elsewhere will de-commit and be back on the market for the Hawkeyes.

Analysis

The staff isn’t clueless and they’ve no doubt noticed the lack of depth at DT. That’s reflected in their recruiting efforts to date as they’ve extended a lot of offers at the position. They’ve already had some success, reeling in a pair of tackles early in the cycle.

Tyler Linderbaum was the first to jump on board. The local product from Solon looks like he has the potential to develop into a Bazata clone to me. He was joined earlier this month by the top DT in Illinois when Noah Shannon of Oswego committed to Iowa. Shannon is a big-bodied tackle who will draw comparisons to Jaleel Johnson at 6’2” and 300 lbs.

In addition to the two buys on board in the class of 2018, the Hawkeyes may be adding some depth from a name you should remember. Daviyon Nixon was a late addition to the class of 2017 after his recruiting tapered on academic concerns. Those concerns came to fruition when he didn’t get through the clearinghouse and is headed to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs this fall. However, Nixon appealed the decision and won, meaning he is eligible to return and play immediately. At this point, it sounds like the plan would be for him to play for the Reivers this fall and re-join the Hawkeyes in January as a member of the class of 2017 with 4 years left to play 3.

That would make 3 new faces at tackle, which may be enough for the staff. As noted in the offer list above, they are also in on a few more. I’m not sure how strongly the staff is pursuing the rest, but they recently made the top 6 for 4-star St. Louis DL Michael Thompson. Like Shannon, Thompson is another massive body at 6’4” and 290 lbs going into his senior year.

Trevor Trout is another St. Louis-area DT the Hawkeyes were in on early, but his recruitment has blown up and I don’t think the staff is still involved. Given the 2 commitments and the potential to have Nixon back in January, I doubt Iowa makes a strong push for another DT unless Thompson wants to jump aboard.

One of the things that kind of stands out from the list is only 3 guys don’t hail from Missouri, and one is an Iowa product. I wouldn’t expect any DL commits (of those listed as already having an offer) to come from anywhere other than Iowa or Missouri, and that includes the defensive ends.

On the outside, Iowa is likely to take 1-2 commitments depending on availability. As noted above, the Hawkeyes have some solid depth at the position, even if they move one or two guys inside. But the name at the top of the (proverbial) list is one they can’t pass on.

John Waggoner is a 4-star defensive end from West Des Moines whose recruitment has exploded. Waggoner, like Epenesa before him, has a tremendous combination of speed and power of the edge and the thought of those two together at some point should give Big Ten QBs nightmares. Waggoner has offers from a Who’s Who list of college programs, but is rumored to be down to Iowa and Ohio State. If it’s truly between those two, I think he ends up a Hawkeye. The question is whether he gets an offer from one of the few schools who hasn’t already extended one. He and his family are reportedly Notre Dame fans and an offer from the Irish could be a game-changer for him. After previously indicating he would decide by the end of June, he’s recently indicated he’s leaning toward letting things trickle into his senior year. That points to holding out for that Notre Dame offer in my opinion, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Beyond Waggoner, things start to get pretty murky. A name I’ve been high on at DE is Blue Springs, MO (Kansas City) product Daniel Parker Jr. Parker has good size at 6’3” and 270 lbs heading into his senior year of high school and he is really powerful. He’s a guy I think is particularly interesting because he lines up on both sides of the ball and totally dominates the line of scrimmage.

As you can see, he’s a quality offensive line prospect, but he gets off the ball well and can really get into the backfield on defense. Unfortunately, Parker trimmed his list to 1 last week and committed to the home school of Missouri.

His versatility makes me think he’s a guy Iowa could stay in contact with regardless of other commitments, but they may well move on from the position altogether if they get a guy like Waggoner or (and?) Thompson. If they can’t land one of those two, perhaps they start handing out offers to new prospects in the fall.


As always, just a reminder that recruiting is truly a dynamic world. Things change in the blink of an eye. A commitment by one prospect could lead to others following to not have their spot taken. Conversely, recruits committing elsewhere may open things up and result in a new offer or two. We’ll continue to keep you updated as things evolve. Expect the momentum to continue with some of the names mentioned above making their decisions prior to the start of the high school season, while others are choosing to slow things down and take official visits during the year. Tune in to the home page for all the updates and go Hawks.