The next player featured on our countdown to the kickoff of Iowa’s 2021 football season could be one of the Hawkeyes’ biggest breakout stars this year. The jury is still out on how long it will take fans and announcers to start pronouncing his first name correctly.
Yahya Black– RS Freshman
Marshall, MN (Marshall)
6’5”, 279 lbs.
2021 Projection: Starting defensive tackle
Yahya Black (first name pronounced “Why-Yay,” not “Yah-Yah”) was a record-breaking high school defensive lineman who was his district’s Player of the Year as a senior in 2019 while also earning All-State honors. A three-star recruit according to 247’s composite ratings, Black committed to the Hawkeyes over his home state Minnesota Golden Gophers and wasted little time turning heads upon arriving on campus. While much of the offseason recruiting hype surrounded fellow defensive line recruits such as the highly-touted Logan Jones and Deontae Craig, it was Black who became the first Hawkeye freshman to crack the two-deeps on defense in 2020. Black appeared in four games as a defensive end last season and recorded three tackles (including a half TFL against Penn State), but it was his ability to work his way onto the field amidst a senior-laden defensive line class which created such optimism surrounding his future in Iowa City.
Black enters his redshirt freshman season as a projected starter after taking first-team reps at defensive tackle during spring ball and is the only freshman listed as a starter on the depth chart. Black’s ability to shift inside after primarily playing defensive end last year speaks to his versatility, which should give him a fairly high ceiling in terms of his snap count next year. Phil Parker tends to put his best four pass rushers on the field on obvious passing downs regardless of their position, and Black’s comfort lining up anywhere across the line could give Iowa’s defensive coordinator greater flexibility in rolling out effective pass rushes in 2021.
Iowa’s coaches have made no secret about how impressed they have been with Young’s play this Spring, with both Phil Parker and Jay Niemann praising the young lineman’s work ethic and potential. Still, Black remains something of an unknown quantity to most Hawkeye fans since injuries forced him to miss both Spring practices and deprived the media of an opportunity to watch him in action. If Black can continue his rapid growth from mid-tier recruit to one of the clear standouts of a loaded defensive line class, Hawkeye fans should expect to have plenty of opportunities to see him play both this season and in the seasons to come.