Next up on our countdown to the start of the Iowa Hawkeyes football season is a player who is looking to have a breakout sophomore year after a surprisingly strong freshman campaign. This player also hopes to continue the tradition of excellent Iowa receivers to wear #89, one started by former All-American and AFL All-Star Don Norton who was the Hawkeyes’ leading receiving during the 1958 Rose Bowl season and was named by Forest Evashevski as the best offensive end he ever coached.
Nico Ragaini- Sophomore
East Haven, CT (Avon Old Farms Prep School)
6’0”, 190 lbs
2020 Projection: Backup Z Receiver
Nico Ragaini came to Iowa as a lightly recruited prospect in the class of 2018 after receiving only one other power five offer (Boston College). After taking a redshirt year during his first season on campus, Ragaini begin generating positive buzz during the 2019 offseason, with coaches and teammates comparing him favorably to former standout slot receiver Nick Easley. Despite starting only two games in 2019, Ragaini led the team in receptions (46), tied for third on the team in receiving yards (439), and hauled in two touchdowns, including an essential score in Iowa’s upset victory over 8th ranked Minnesota.
Ragaini also emerged as a reliable punt returner for the Hawkeyes, averaging 10.7 yards per return and finishing as Phil Steele’s first-team All-Big Ten punt return specialist. Arguably his strongest stretch of the season came during a three-game run against Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue in which Ragaini totaled 19 catches for 132 yards, emerging as a consistent weapon for an offense that was struggling to put points on the board.
Ragiani flashed plenty of impressive attributes during his first season on the field. His quick feet and precise route-running helped him gain separation from his defenders over the middle, and he proved a capable ball-carrier after the catch.
While Ragaini occasionally had some frustrating drops on routine catches, he also made some impressive contested grabs which bode well for his development. Establishing greater consistency should allow Ragaini to play a major role in the passing game next season.