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91 Days Until Hawkeye Football: Lukas Van Ness

Lukas Van Ness was a pleasant surprise for Iowa’s defense last year. Is he ready to become a star in 2022?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Iowa Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Next up on our countdown to the start of Iowa’s 2022 football season is a young defensive lineman who blew away expectations in 2021 and is gearing up to play an even larger role during his sophomore campaign.

Lukas Van Ness – RS Sophomore

Barrington, IL (Barrington HS)

6’5”, 264 lbs

2022 Projection: starting defensive end

Lukas Van Ness may have been Iowa’s most impactful defensive freshmen last season, but like many Hawkeye standouts of the Ferentz era, he came to Iowa City as a lightly recruited player. Ranked outside the top 1,000 recruits in the 2020 recruiting class according to the 247 Composite Rankings, Van Ness boasts an offer sheet full of Group of Five Schools, service academies, FCS teams, and lower-tier Power Five programs like Kansas and Illinois. While Van Ness was a first-team All-State selection and was his conference’s defensive player of the year as a senior, he was largely overshadowed in his recruiting class by fellow defensive linemen Logan Jones and Deontae Craig.

After redshirting in 2020 and packing on some considerable muscle mass, Van Ness was a dominant force during Iowa’s Spring Game and worked his way onto the post-Spring practice depth chart. Still, there were few expectations for Van Ness heading into the season, with most of the Fall camp hype surrounding fellow freshman defensive tackle Yahya Black. Once the season started, however, Van Ness quickly established himself as a player to watch. He recorded Iowa’s only sack in his first game against Indiana, posted seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a safety against Kent State, and compiled six tackles, a sack, and a safety against Nebraska. By season’s end, Van Ness had racked up 33 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, and a team highs in sacks (seven) and safeties (two). Leading a defense as strong as Iowa’s in sacks is an impressive feat in its own right, but doing so as a freshman who played almost exclusively on the interior and didn’t start a single game is simply exceptional. That Van Ness posted more tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (7) last year than he did as a high school senior (eight and five, respectively) speaks to the extent of his growth since arriving on campus and justifies the excitement surrounding him next year.

Now that Iowa’s coaches know what they have in the Freshman All-American Van Ness, expect to see a significant uptick in his usage in 2022. The Hawkeyes have no shortage of depth at defensive tackle thanks to the return of Noah Shannon, Logan Lee, and Yahya Black, as well as the arrival of star recruit Aaron Graves. While Van Ness could continue to see some time inside, look for him to establish himself as a starting defensive end this season, a position where he spent most of his time during the Spring. While it remains to be seen whether Van Ness can match his stellar production once he moves to the outside, it is hard not to get excited about his potential for continued growth during his sophomore year. If Iowa manages to match its exceptional defensive play from last season, expect Lukas Van Ness to play a major role in that accomplishment.