Iowa Football Players Who Could Potentially Opt Out

September 4, 2020

Written by Anna Kayser

Hawkeye Nation

As of Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten’s plan remains the same as it was when they first canceled the fall season: to play a revised schedule sometime after the first of the year. 

There’s a chance that changes, with a reported re-vote scheduled for Friday. But if the plans stay the same, the concerns that come with it will also continue, the main two being about those who plan to enter the 2021 NFL Draft and how feasible it is to make players play two seasons in a calendar year. 

For Iowa, which prides itself in being a pipeline to the NFL, the question about the NFL Draft is a big one that could leave gaping holes in both the offense and defense come Jan. 1 if a handful of players were to opt out. 

Below are players likely to go to the Draft that would have a sizable impact on Iowa’s season. 

Offensive Line: Alaric Jackson

Iowa’s offensive line missed Alaric Jackson immensely after he left the game with an injury in the first quarter of Iowa’s 2019 season opener vs. Miami (Ohio). 

A consistent starter at left-tackle since his freshman year in 2017, the loss of Jackson for three full games during the 2019 season forced shifting in Iowa’s offensive line that left it shallow in depth. Now-Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs was forced to shift from right to left tackle for those three games, with Mark Kallenberger stepping up into the open spot. 

After returning on Oct. 5 at Michigan, Jackson played every offensive down for the rest of the year, solidifying his presence on the field through the Holiday Bowl. 

In the 2020 preseason, he was named to the Outland Trophy – which is given to the best college football interior lineman – watch list for the second straight year, All-America first, second and third-teams by Pick Six Previews, Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, respectively, and was also named to first-team All-Big Ten by all three. 

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Wide Receivers: Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette

Wide receivers Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette made a major impact on Iowa’s entire receiving corps in 2019 and were expected to be even more dominant this season. 

In 2019, Smith-Marsette led the team with 722 yards on 44 catches and five touchdowns. As a kickoff returner, despite having a slow year, he had two touchdowns for 95+ yards that ranked in the top 10 for longest in school history. 

Brandon Smith, on the other hand, had the strongest year of his career. He started the season with a career-best 71 yards on six catches against Middle Tennessee State before breaking his own record multiple times later that season. 

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With nine receptions and 106 yards vs. Purdue, Smith had the best game of his career. On his final reception of that game he suffered an injury and was sidelined for the rest of the regular season before joining the team on the field in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl. He finished the season tied for Iowa’s most receiving touchdowns with Smith-Marsette (5) and had 439 yards on 37 receptions. 

Defense: Chauncey Golston (DL) and Matt Hankins (DB)

Chauncey Golston and Matt Hankins both made an impact on Iowa’s defensive game in 2019, combining for 12 pass break-ups and 105 tackles. 

Golston on the defensive line enters the 2020 season on the Lott IMPACT and Bronko Magurski Award preseason watch lists, both honored for defensive performance after appearing in all 13 games for the Hawkeyes in 2019-20. He had 26 solo tackles of his 47 total with 9.5 coming at a loss for yards. His three sacks on the season tied for second-most on Iowa’s defense. 

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Hankins had a career-high two pass breakups in the first game of the season last year before missing three games due to injury, even further thinning out Iowa’s roster. When he returned, he picked up where he left off and totaled 58 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups at cornerback. 

Graduate Transfers: Coy Cronk and Jack Heflin

Coy Cronk (OL) and Jack Heflin (DL) join Iowa as graduate transfers from Indiana and Northern Illinois, respectively, and they both add dominance at their positions, 

Cronk sat out most of 2019 after a season-ending injury but led Indiana to a No. 24 national ranking with 23.5 downs per game in 2018 at left tackle. 

Heflin was named the NIU Defensive Player of the Year after leading the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He had three forced fumbles that year to tie for 16th nationally. 

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