Welcome back to our preview of the 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes football season. Up next is:
Aaron Graves - Sophomore
6’4”, 274 lbs.
Dayton, IA - Southeast Valley
2023 projection: Reserve defensive tackle
Graves attracted a great deal of hype before his first year in the black and gold. The 4-star product from Southeast Valley was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in his senior season, tallying 63 tackles and 7.5 sacks on the way to a state championship. He was a three-sport athlete, pairing wrestling and basketball with his impressive football career. Even off the field, Graves excelled; earning an Associates Degree from Iowa Central Community College even before graduating from high school. Alongside Xavier Nwankpa and (for one brief shining moment) Kayden Proctor, he was one of the highlights of the 2022 recruiting class. It was expected he would contribute in his first year on campus, but how much success he’d have remained to be seen.
It turned out to be quite a bit.
While most incoming freshman see little to no action in their first year, his production and sheer physical impressiveness made it difficult for the Iowa coaches to keep Graves off the field. He played in 12 games, missing only the season opener against South Dakota State. While his first action against Iowa State produced no stats, he finally broke through in the marathon game against Nevada. Against the Wolf Pack he notched four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and his first collegiate QB sack. By the end of the year, the freshman could boast 15 total tackles, 5 solo, 6 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.
The numbers themselves may not jump off the screen. But remember, this was a freshman in Kirk Ferentz’s program, one long known for letting young talent wait in the wings behind players with more seniority.
The Hawkeyes will field a deep defensive line this fall, with big contributors Joe Evans, Logan Lee, Deontae Craig, and Noah Shannon all returning. Throw Graves into that group and you have a fierce test for any opposing offensive line. Even as a rotational piece within that group, Graves’ stock only looks to go up. With one year in the system under his belt, and a strong foundation upon which to build, expect to see even more production out of the sophomore from Dayton, IA.