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Iowa Football: A.J.’s Annihilations

A weekly look at the destruction left behind by A.J. Epenesa.

Nebraska v Iowa
A.J. annihilates Adrian?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

A new feature for 2019 will be this weekly post that I’m currently calling “A.J.’s Annihilations”. Because our readers are smarter than I am, I’m also soliciting names for this weekly post. I’d prefer something called “Epenesa’s .... (another word that starts with an ‘E’)” but can be convinced otherwise. If there are multiple good ideas, we’ll put it to a vote. The main reason I’m leaning towards another name is because we have another A.J. that can also wreak havoc. Only this A.J., Alaric Jackson, does it on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe I leave it as is so I can include either player?

Until then, Merriam-Webster defines annihilations as “the state or fact of being rendered nonexistent, physically unsound, or useless”. If this doesn’t sound like what Epenesa can do to a lineman, running back, quarterback, or God willing, all of the above in the same game, I don’t know what does.

As we get ready for opening day, let’s look at a couple of videos from last season.

The first video shows Epenesa pushing Northwestern left tackle Blake Hance until he finally gives up and falls down. You might say that he was annihilated. Now this is no young, undersized freshman lining up for the first time. Hance was a senior who played in 53 career games and is a big man at 6-5, 310 lbs. Epenesa initiated the contact and didn’t stop until his opponent was neutralized. Had the quarterback rolled left, Epenesa would have recorded another sack.

Now let’s look at a sack from the Nebraska game. You can see that the Nebraska tight end (#11) went into his route without at least putting a chip on Epenesa. This probably won’t happen in 2019, but if there are opportunities to go against any tackle one-on-one, Epenesa can use speed or power to get to the quarterback. While the Nebraska tackle was only a sophomore (Brenden Jaimes), he did receive the same All-Conference honors as Tristan Wirfs (Honorable Mention). Yes, I’m a bit salty that Wirfs was only an Honorable Mention.

Finally, against Iowa State, Epenesa once again uses a speed and power combination to barrel through the left tackle Sean Foster. This was an example of Epenesa going up against an inexperienced tackle and it showed.

I look forward to highlighting the incredible things that Epenesa is able to demonstrate in 2019. He is a generational talent that should be appreciated before he is lost to the NFL.

2018 Annihilations: 10.5

2019 Annihilations: 0

Up Next: Miami of Ohio

Epenesa’s first roadblock is Miami of Ohio’s Matt Skibinski (senior left tackle) or Tommy Doyle (junior right tackle) depending on which side of the line he starts on. Skibinski is listed at 6-5 and 300 lbs. while Doyle (no relation to Chris or Dillon as far as I know) is listed at 6-8 and 315 lbs. so neither will be intimidated by Epenesa’s size.

Both tackles started last year and held opponents to only twenty sacks on the season. While that is certainly impressive, the best opponent they played last year was Minnesota so they certainly didn’t have to play anyone with Epenesa’s skills.

Look for Epenesa to use his speed as the difference maker this weekend. The annihilation over/under prediction is 1.5 sacks.

This Week Last Year: Northern Illinois

Iowa played Northern Illinois in the opening game last year, a 33-7 Iowa victory. As a part-time player, Epenesa recorded four tackles with one sack and a forced fumble. Additionally he had two hits on the quarterback.