Countdown – 15 Most Indispensable Hawkeyes for 2018 – No. 3

August 19, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – I started this exercise last year in July. As you can see, this summer has been a little busier.

Beginning today, we’ll count down the 15 most indispensable Hawkeyes for 2018. These are the players I believe the team can least afford to lose by way of injury, suspension, alien abduction or some other unforeseen reason.

I use several factors in generating this list. It starts with a given player’s ability. From there, experience, depth at a position, perceived development and a general sense of the roster are considered.

I’m guessing you guys will see things differently than me, at least to some degree. That’s OK. There’s plenty we don’t know at this point.

I had Manny Rugamba on this list last year and not Josh Jackson. That seems silly now but made sense at the time.

Let’s see if I can make a fool of myself again. I’m confident I can.

No. 15 – Alaric Jackson, Left Tackle

No. 14 – Amani Jones, Middle Linebacker

No. 13 – Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Wide Receiver

No. 12 – A.J. Epenesa, Defensive End

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No. 11 – Parker Hesse, Defensive End 

No. 10 – Toren Young, Running Back

No. 9 – Jake Gervase, Free Safety

No. 8 Miguel Recinos

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No. 7 Nick Easley, Wide Receiver

No. 6 T.J. Hockenson, Tight End

No. 5 Amani Hooker, Safety

No. 4 Keegan Render, Center

No. 3 Anthony Nelson, Defensive End

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Projected Backup – Sam Brincks.

Reason He’s Here – Nelson continued his upward trend with a strong sophomore season in 2017. He paced the Hawkeyes with 7.5 sacks and added 9.5 tackles for loss.

He’s succeeded with speed and athleticism during the last two campaigns. While he’s retained those things, he’s added strength and power that has him poised for a breakout on a national scale this fall.

Nelson has improved against the run the last two seasons and should be even better moving forward. He’s also done a good job getting his long arms up in passing lanes even when he can’t get all the way to the quarterback.

Iowa enjoys good depth at end with Parker Hesse, A.J. Epenesa and Sam Brincks, who is listed as Nelson’s backup. Brincks likely will see more reps inside this year, however.

And there’s no doubt Nelson holds a big key to Iowa’s success this season with the team breaking in three new starting linebackers and his ability to make plays.

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