Zach VanValkenburg Illinois

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg (97) wraps up Illinois Fighting Illini running back Reggie Love III (28) Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. (Brian Ray/

Losing three defensive line starters is nothing new for Iowa.

It’s the second consecutive season of a rebuild for the Hawkeyes at that position group, and it was something coach Kirk Ferentz was reminded of when watching Iowa’s pro day last week.

“You’re out there, and there’s Chauncey (Golston), there’s Daviyon (Nixon) working, there’s Jack Heflin,” Ferentz said. “It dawned on me, that’s three. You can only start four.”

Those are three big losses. Golston and Nixon combined for 90 tackles, including 21 1/2 for loss, and 11 sacks. Heflin had 21 tackles, including 3 1/2 for loss.

What was interesting about that rebuild was the lack of time Ferentz and his staff had to do it. There was no spring practice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and summer workouts were affected as well.

Still, it came together for the Hawkeyes, as it always seems to do up front.

There is a lot of inexperience in this position group, just enough playing time to know there’s something to work with there, but not enough to know who will be where.

“We have some experience in our ones, but a lot of our ones haven’t played much,” Ferentz said. “A lot of our twos, this is just going to be new for them.”

It’s an interesting depth chart, with John Waggoner (left end), Noah Shannon (left tackle), Yahya Black (right tackle) and Zach VanValkenburg (right end) at No. 1 at their respective positions.

VanValkenburg, who will be taking advantage of the additional season of eligibility granted, was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season after a 30-tackle season that included 8 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks, and a nation-leading four recovered fumbles.

“What you’re hoping to see is a story like Zach’s,” Ferentz said. “The improvement he made last year, as opposed to the year before, is like night and day.”

Waggoner, a junior, and Black, a redshirt freshman, each played in four games last season. Shannon is a two-year letter winner with one career start.

Waggoner, who played in 10 games in 2019, impressed Ferentz with his work since last season ended.

"Based on what I’ve seen him do in the weight room and the offseason program, he’s ready to go,” he said.

Black, from Marshall, Minn., set his school’s record for career sacks with 17 1/2. Shannon played in all eight games last season, and seven in 2019.

There is some experience among the twos on the depth chart.

Defensive end Joe Evans, who is behind Waggoner on the chart, has been a key piece in the line rotation, usually in third-down situations. He had a sack, two tackles for loss, and four QB hurries last season.

Logan Lee, a sophomore who is No. 2 at left tackle, played in two games last season, recording one tackle.

If there is a positive to this, it’s that this position group will be together for a while — VanValkenburg is the lone season.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys, new faces,” Ferentz said. “Quite frankly, a lot of guys we don’t know a lot about.”

At least there will be time to figure how these pieces fit.