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97 Days Until Hawkeye Football: Zach VanValkenburg & Liam Reardon

The super senior returned after a breakout 2020! (and a long snapper)

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our countdown of the Iowa Hawkeyes football season. Our next player preview is Iowa’s most accomplished returning defender (and a long snapper!)

Zach VanValkenburg – RS Senior
Zeeland, MI (Zeeland West / Hillsdale)
6’4”, 270 lbs
2021 Projection: Starting 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 2019 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.

VanValkenburg was one of three relative unknowns to step up last year alongside Daviyon Nixon & Jack Heflin and saw his efforts result in 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 (!!!) fumble recoveries, and one forced. In his best game against Minnesota - where he accumulated 3 of his sacks - he showed ability in both the 2- and 3-point stances.

Here, he shows patience executing a well-called twist alongside three reserve linemen.

In a more conventional sack, he simply beats Minnesota’s LT off the line and uses leverage well to finish the job.

He sealed his season with a 2nd team all-conference selection from both coaches and media.

The question will be whether ZVV can turn from the beneficiary of attention directed to others along the line to the guy who commands that attention and still performs well. History says to trust Phil Parker and that the 25.5 TFLs & 12 sacks departing with Chauncey Golston, Nixon, and Heflin will get replaced by ramped up production from VanValkenburg and his cohorts, but it is still a steep hill to climb.

The Hillsdale transfer is the best suited to see his production skyrocket and could find himself as Iowa’s latest first team all-conference defensive lineman.

Liam Reardon – RS Freshman
Chicago, IL (Mount Carmel)
6’1”, 190 lbs
2021 Projection: Reserve long snapper

Information is tough to come by for reserve long snappers but Reardon aka Buddy looks like something Iowa can work with, given his on-the-money snaps in a weather-affected game his senior year at Mount Carmel:

Further, a May 2019 camp labeled him as a top 5 midwestern long snapper available for 2020.

With Austin Spiewak currently occupying long snapping duties after a perfect 2020, Reardon’s time is likely 2022 or beyond. Ben’s analysis is spot on re: long snappers as it’s best we never see their names.

You can always tell a Milford man Iowa longsnapper.