The next player featured on our countdown to the kickoff of Iowa’s 2021 football season finally has a chance to be the next standout Iowa defensive lineman in 2021.
John Waggoner - RS Junior
West Des Moines, IA (Dowling Catholic)
6’5”, 271 lbs.
2021 Projection: Starting defensive lineman
It’s no question that Iowa has a lot of talent to replace on its defensive line heading into the 2021. And after a season in which he only played in four games and saw 92 total snaps, Waggoner is finally going to have the chance to show off why he was highly touted 4-star recruit out of Des Moines three years ago.
After redshirting his first year on campus and playing in 10 total games his debut season, Waggoner seemed poised to be an immediate step-in for A.J. Epenesa as he departed for the NFL. But it was Chauncey Golston and Daviyon Nixon instead who were the breakout stars in 2020, and both of whom were drafted into the NFL.
Now, heading into spring practice, Waggoner is at the top of the depth chart, listed at DE opposite Zach VanValkenburg, the undisputed leader of the defensive line heading into the season. Waggoner should be right behind as the second in command. It’s not hard to see why Golston in particular saw more time on the field than Waggoner last year, but it it does create a somewhat difficult position for the redshirt junior, as his snap count will increase tremendously after a season of spare usage.
Thankfully, that means fresh legs — and if his coaches are to be believed, Waggoner has stepped it up so far in spring practice.
“He’s already gotten in that process of elevating his game,” defensive line coach Jay Niemann told 247 Sports. “He’s off to a good start practicing this spring. I think he realizes there is now a window of opportunity with some of the seniors from last year, and upperclassmen that were here before are now gone. It’s up to him to seize the moment, take advantage of that, and I think that’s what he’s preparing himself to do and be ready to go when we get to the season to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Considering he will be filling in the shoes of Golston, who was the first Hawkeye selected in the 2021 NFL Draft in the 3rd round, he’ll certainly need to be ready. Hopefully, the combination of him and VanValkenburg rushing the edges will continue to create fear for opposing offenses.
The possibility is certainly there. Now it’s just a matter of execution.