The Iowa football program has become synonymous with elite defense, a reputation it has earned after eight straight seasons as a Top 20 scoring defense and three Top 5 finishes in this metric over the past four seasons. Iowa’s defense is producing similar expectations this year thanks to the return of several key players from the 2022 squad as well as valuable additions who are poised to make an immediate impact. The next Hawkeye to be featured on our countdown to the kickoff of the 2023 season is one such addition and may be one of the most important yet least-discussed signings made by the program during the last recruiting cycle.
Anterio Thompson (So.)
6’3”, 293 lbs.
Dubuque, IA (Hempstead, by way of Iowa Western CC)
2023 projection: Rotational defensive tackle
Anterio Thompson’s path to Iowa was nothing if not convoluted. After almost quitting the football team at Dubuque Hempstead, Thompson had a breakthrough year during his senior season in which he earned All-Conference honors. While he received some Division I interest as a recruit, he opted to continue his collegiate career at Iowa Western in hopes of improving his GPA and playing football at the next level. Thompson redshirted during his first year in Council Bluffs, but exploded during his freshman campaign with 32 tackles (including ten for loss), six sacks, and a fumble recovery which he returned for a touchdown. By season’s end, Thompson had emerged as a Top 25 JuCo prospect, been named to both the first-team All-Conference and All-Region teams, and led the Rievers to a national championship. While Thompson was heavily recruited by Nebraska, he ultimately spurned the Huskers in favor of playing for his home-state Hawkeyes.
The comparisons between Thompson and former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Daviyon Nixon basically write themselves. Both players are similarly sized defensive tackles who boast plus athleticism for their position, both joined the Hawkeyes after successful stints at Iowa Western, and both wear #54. It would be unreasonable to expect Thompson to enjoy the same level of success Nixon had at Iowa, but one does not have to squint very hard to see the makings of a future star at defensive tackle. Thompson reportedly posted a 4.61 forty-yard dash time which, if accurate, would eclipse the NFL combine record for the fastest forty time ever recorded by a defensive tackle (4.67, set last Spring by Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey).
That level of athleticism, combined with Thompson’s size and strength, could make him an absolute terror in the interior of Iowa’s defense, and could lead to him making the kinds of plays rarely seen by defensive linemen. For reference, Nixon, who is featured in the clip below, was a timed as running a 4.9 forty-yard dash during the NFL combine—an impressive number to be sure, but still a few points below what Thompson was credited as accomplishing.
Iowa is absolutely loaded at defensive tackle next season thanks to the return of Noah Shannon, Logan Lee, Aaron Graves, Yahya Black, and Jeremiah Pittman, among others. Yet Thompson’s experience and athleticism make him an intriguing option at that position and could should allow him to enter into the mix, provided his conditioning and mastery of the playbook are where they need to be. At worst, Thompson should provide a valuable depth piece who can contribute in spot duty in Iowa’s extremely deep defensive line rotation. If Thompson flashes in his first year on campus, however, he has the potential to be a significant ceiling-raiser for the Iowa defense and emerge as a disruptive force up the middle. Should Thompson find a way to translate his freakish athleticism into on-field production, he could play a major role in keeping Iowa’s defense elite in 2023.