Countdown – 15 Most Indispensable Hawkeyes for 2018 – No. 5

August 17, 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

Projected Backup – Geno Stone.

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Reason He’s Here – Hooker just continues getting better after pushing his way into the starting lineup last season. He began the campaign as a reserve but became one of the better defensive players by year’s end.

Hooker became more known to Hawkeye fans after picking off the opening pass of last season’s game against Ohio State and returning it for a touchdown, setting the tone for one of college football’s biggest upsets of the year. His 12 tackles (eight solo) paced Iowa in its Pinstripe Bowl win against Boston College in September.

He stood out during April’s open spring practice at Kinnick Stadium. He did the same at Kids Day on Saturday.

If you’re looking for potential all-Big Ten level breakout players on this year’s team, Hooker is an excellent choice. He could end up being the most complete safety of head coach Kirk Ferentz’s era, and that’s saying something.

With a young group of cornerbacks, Hooker will fill a leadership role in the secondary this year. He does a good job in that regard both by example and vocally.

Stone is a developing backup but Hooker being out of the lineup for any length of time this year could prove costly.

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