Tuesday was a news-filled day for the Iowa Hawkeyes. While the news was good for several individual players, it was a rough day for the Hawkeyes’ hopes in 2020.
Things kicked off with the announcement that standout defensive end A.J. Epenesa was, as expected, departing for the NFL Draft. While expected, it’s a painful departure for Phil Parker’s defense heading into next season.
The real woes, however, were felt on the offensive side of the ball. The first shoe to drop was the departure of redshirt junior running back Toren Young.
Excited for this next chapter of my life! keeping my faith in god, however or wherever he decides to use me!— Toren Young (@Toren28Young) January 14, 2020
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 pic.twitter.com/uSwtMBUCqm
While it wasn't entirely a surprise to see Young decide to move after the emergence of freshman running back Tyler Goodson, perhaps the phrasing of Young’s announcement is a bit of a surprise. You’ll note Young isn’t intending to transfer, as many have speculated.
While he could have been immediately eligible as a graduate transfer next year, Young is instead opting to move on from the college game. Hawkeye Report’s Blair Sanderson reported Tuesday afternoon that Young intends to declare for the NFL Draft.
Just spoke to Toren Young. He will be forgoing his final year of eligibility at Iowa and entering the NFL Draft. Young is on track to graduate this spring. https://t.co/uDE9GAnVSL— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) January 14, 2020
Young seems unlikely to be selected in the draft given his role as more of a power back, but it’s not unthinkable he could make an NFL roster as a fullback. Despite his role in the Iowa offense this season, many a Hawkeye fan posited about the prospect of Young the battering ram.
During his Hawkeye career, Young rushes for 1,262 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2019, he was Iowa’s third-leading rusher with 432 yards and 1 TD.
Young’s departure will leave a void in the offense, but it will be nothing compared to the void left by tackle Tristan Wirfs.
Late Tuesday afternoon, as Iowa fans were preparing to cheer on Fran McCaffery’s hoops team, Wirfs announced his long anticipated decision to enter the NFL Draft as well.
Its a decision largely expected by everyone, but painful nonetheless. Tristan Wirfs was one of the best offensive lineman we’ve seen at Iowa. For a program with as storied a tradition at offensive line as the Hawkeyes have, that’s saying something.
Wirfs became a starter for the Iowa offense midway through his freshman season in 2017 and never looked back. He started every game but one as a sophomore in 2018 and was again a stalwart at right tackle for Iowa in 2019.
He graded out as the best tackle in the Big Ten during his junior season, allowing just 7 QB pressures all year. He only allowed multiple pressures in a game twice all season and allowed just one pressure in his final seven games in an Iowa uniform.
Tristan Wirfs only allowed multiple pressures in two games this season pic.twitter.com/jXWcQ7hn8h— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 9, 2020
Those impressive numbers are going to earn Wirfs a big time pay day. He’s considered by virtually everyone to be a lock in the first round of this year’s draft and is projected to go in the top ten of several mock drafts.
Replacing Wirfs will be impossible, but the cupboard is not bare in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have a number of young linemen who were forced into game action in 2019 due to injuries both to left tackle Alaric Jackson, who is returning for 2020, and guards Cole Banwart and Kyler Schott.
Look for redshirt sophomore Mark Kallenberger to slide outside in Wirfs’ absence. He’ll have competition from former tight end Jack Plumb. Wirfs shoes will be too large to fill, but one of those two is likely to be the next in a long line of Iowa tackles getting paid for their services.
Congratulations to Toren Young and Tristan Wirfs and best of luck in the NFL. Get paid, gentlemen.