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97 Days Until Hawkeye Football: Zach VanValkenburg

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Iowa’s dip into the graduate transfer pool has yielded fruit before. Will the senior from Hillsdale make an impact after a quiet junior season?

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our countdown of the Iowa Hawkeyes football season. Our next player preview is a senior defensive lineman.

Here’s a delightful moment in 97’s history, with current special teams coordinator LeVar Woods taking back a blocked field goal for a touchdown:

Those shoulder pads. /chef’s kiss

Zach VanValkenburg – RS Senior
Zeeland, MI (Zeeland West / Hillsdale)
6’4”, 270 lbs
2020 Projection: Rotational defensive lineman

VanValkenburg came to Iowa after an all-conference performance at Hillsdale where he was named defensive lineman of the year. He accrued 102 tackles and 13 sacks in his two seasons there. ZVV chose Iowa over offers from directional Michigan programs and other Group of 5 schools.

He spent last season backing up A.J. Epenesa where he gathered 6 tackles in limited playing time. Turning back to his Hillsdale tape, he shows both speed and power out of a variety of stances.

With the vacancies along Iowa’s line, the Hawks will first turn to VanValkenburg as an every-down lineman as he is amongst their most experienced, despite the uptick in competition. With his 270-pound frame, he’s certainly built like past ends who have succeeded in Iowa’s scheme, both inside and out.

It will require a team effort to fill the statistical gaps left by Epenesa, so it would be unfair to expect a 10-sack season from him. If he can accumulate 7 or 8 and demonstrate the schematic aptitude we’ve seen from past Hawks, it’ll set them up nicely for a successful 2020.