We’re nearly a month past the early signing period in college football and Iowa’s football season is officially behind us. But that doesn’t mean Hawkeye fans can’t get a sneak peak at next year and into the future. All week, the All-America Bowl has been holding practices in San Antonio and the Hawkeyes have a pair of future stars participating.
While Iowa’s recruiting class of 2022 is small in size with only 17 commitments to-date, it ranks inside the top-25 nationally because it’s headlined by a pair of incredibly talented players. Southeast Polk 5-star safety Xavier Nwankpa is the one that gets all the publicity, but Gowrie defensive end Aaron Graves was Iowa’s first commitment in the class and he remains one of the best.
Both Nwankpa and Graves were selected to participate in the All-American Bowl this weekend and have been competing all week for the West. The practice sessions have been open to the media, meaning we’re getting some glimpses of these budding stars at work.
It seems Graves has made a name for himself early and often, generating a pass rush off the edge.
Practice reports from the AA Bowl. West: Defensive line for the West is generating a ton of pressure. Blowing through the opposition with ease and active in their pursuit to the ball. Notre Dame signee Tyson Ford and Iowa signee Aaron Graves are standing out. – Joseph Hastings— Steven Dailey (@Stevemontana) January 4, 2022
It’s not just off the edge for Graves, though. At 6’4” and 270 pounds, Graves could potentially end up inside or outside at the next level. He certainly has the athleticism to come off the edge, but if he continues to fill out on that enormous frame, he would be a terror in the middle.
Here’s a look at him going against recent Ohio State center commit Carson Hinzman.
Carson Hinzman (#75 playing center) going at it with Iowa signee Aaron Graves. pic.twitter.com/lrJuzFD7m1— Garrick Hodge (@Garrick_Hodge) January 4, 2022
And here he is going up against OSU tackle commit George Fitzpatrick.
George Fitzpatrick going against Aaron Graves. pic.twitter.com/PuHx0XBqGI— Garrick Hodge (@Garrick_Hodge) January 5, 2022
There are a few other clips of Graves this week in this video from Rivals. The clip calls out who is featured.
As for Nwankpa, fewer clips of one-on-one reps have surfaced. There are, however, plenty of shots of some drills. At 6’2” and 200 pounds, Nwankpa looks like he’s ready for the Big Ten on day one.
Five star #Iowa signee Xavier Nwankpa pic.twitter.com/UiGfvTWnKR— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) January 4, 2022
On3 Consensus 4-star S and #Iowa signee @xaviernwankpa01 in drills at #AAB West practice . @On3Recruits https://t.co/aM8DuabkdD pic.twitter.com/e0tJ03X7ol— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) January 4, 2022
While the clips are limited, Nwankpa did make his presence felt early in practice reps picking off a mistake in what likely looks familiar for Hawkeye fans.
Iowa 5* safety signee Xavier Nwankpa with the INT earlier this sessionhttps://t.co/C5tLMFduNJ pic.twitter.com/zbuE95Vguy— Gabe Brooks (@gabrieldbrooks) January 4, 2022
Another angle of the pick.
Big Play— Rivals (@Rivals) January 5, 2022
Five-star Iowa DB Xavier Nwankpa jumps the route during one-on-ones for the INT @xaviernwankpa01 | @HawkeyeReport pic.twitter.com/PVxqnXDEaw
Nwankpa also seems to be a great locker room guy, making connections wherever he goes. During his recruiting process, videos surfaced of him with commitments at Ohio State, Iowa and other schools. Now we get him doing the same among the crowd of All-Americans.
.@xaviernwankpa01 pic.twitter.com/majNwkYSaV— All-American Bowl (@AABonNBC) January 7, 2022
As noted, Graves and Nwankpa will both be representing the West in the All-American Bowl. Graves will be wearing #68 while Nwankpa will be #5. The game is set to kick off at 12pm CT on Saturday, January 8th from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. You can watch on NBC.