The Iowa Hawkeyes picked you a big time win Friday night as they defeated the USC Trojans 49-24 to win the Holiday Bowl for the first time since 1987. It was also Iowa’s first win over USC since 1961.
The win moves Iowa to 10-3 for the year, marking the sixth time under head coach Kirk Ferentz the Hawkeyes have won 10+ games. Following the win, Iowa fans were treated to some great news as it pertains to the 2020 season.
Just after midnight Central Time, a number of Iowa media members reported starting left tackle Alaric Jackson confirmed he plans to return for his senior season in 2020.
Alaric is definitely coming back. Said “See ya next year.”— Marc Morehouse (@marcmorehouse) December 28, 2019
As to what drove the decision, the injury sustained earlier this year, which has hampered Jackson all season, was a driving force in addition to the desire to earn his college degree.
Alaric Jackson said the key factors in his decision in returning for his senior season were his degree and the knee injury putting him behind this year.— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) December 28, 2019
What’s interesting from a fan perspective is despite all the speculation this year, it sounds as if Jackson was never really leaning toward leaving once the injury occurred.
Iowa LT Alaric Jackson said he never even considered turning pro after this year. Hasn't been healthy, still isn't, he added. Wants to improve pass pro especially. Will be a four-year starting left tackle at Iowa.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) December 28, 2019
The return of a four-year starter at left tackle will provide a major boost to an Iowa offense that was poised to lose their starting QB and both starting tackles. The question for Iowa fans now is whether Jackson will be joined in returning to Iowa City by any of Iowa’s other potential early entrants.
Along with Jackson, fellow offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs has long been expected to test the NFL waters as he’s a projected first round pick. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa is also a projected first rounder who is likely to leave early. And safety Geno Stone could potentially depart early as well, though he is likely to be drafted later than Wirfs or Epenesa.
But outside of Jackson, it appears nobody has made a decision as of yet.
Geno and Tristan are still mulling the NFL. AJE said earlier this week it's ongoing. We'll see.— Marc Morehouse (@marcmorehouse) December 28, 2019
It’s a safe bet that both Wirfs and Epenesa will be playing on Sundays next season given where they are likely to grade out. Stone is a more interesting case. His return would make the defense in 2020 a stingy one.
The surprise return of either Wirfs or Epenesa would obviously make the potential for 2020 sky high. But keeping Jackson in town is a major step toward another solid year under Kirk Ferentz with tons of upside.