IOWA CITY, Iowa - Nobody yet knows what spring football will look like in 2021. It's safe to assume it will be more rewarding than last year when it was wiped out by the pandemic.
Iowa worked through COVID-19 to play eight games in the fall. It's prepared to navigate on-field April workouts regardless of whether or not vaccines reach the program in time for it.
A developmental program like the Hawkeyes cherishes that time of year. With plenty of talent off to the NFL, they can use spring ball more than many.
Coaches will begin that exercise with an outline based off of a disjointed 2020. Student-athletes will be attempting to catch their attention before the season kicks off in late summer.
With that in mind, let's take a stab at a starting point. Here's what the pre-spring depth chart might look like for the offense:
DE1 - Zach VanValkenburg - While he didn't quite reach the heights of A.J. Epenesa, who he replaced in the starting lineup, the former Division II product earned all-Big Ten honors and filled in more than admirably.
DE1 - Yahya Black - This spot, vacated by NFL-bound Chauncey Golston, will see plenty of competition. I have a hunch Black will emerge from the group, but we'll likely see a rotation here, anyway.
DT1 - Noah Shannon - His reps have increased each year he's been on campus and he should be ready to take on more. He's capable of making plays.
DT1 - Logan Lee - He works on the outside as well but I think his athleticism plays even better in the middle. He could also be a swing man who does both.
DE2 - Joe Evans - I could see Evans ending up at DE1 if he shows he can be a three-down performer. At the very least, he'll be called upon on passing downs.
DE2 - Deonte Craig - Super athletic edge player with a high ceiling. He'll be competing with Matt Lorbeck, Chris Reames, Lukas Van Ness and others for time.
DT2 - John Waggoner - Like Lee, the former Dowling standout can help inside and out. I expect him to be in the rotation somewhere.
DT2 - Isaiah Bruce - Another member of the '20 recruiting class with high upside. Jake Karchinski and others will pushing to get in the lineup.
WIL1 - Seth Benson - The South Dakota native brings versatility to play here or in the middle. He took a big step forward in '20.
MLB1 - Jack Campbell - Not being hyperbolic when I say he could be one of the best linebackers in school history. He has that ability.
LEO1 - Jestin Jacobs - Slowed by injuries in '19 which hampered his development, the naturally gifted Jacobs should be ready to roll.
CASH1 - Dane Belton - The coaches were hoping Belton would develop into an Amani Hooker type and he's done just that.
WIL2 - Jaden Harrell - Opportunities are available for young players on the second level, And Iowa has shown a willingness to play them here.
MLB2 - Jay Higgins - The Indiana native impressed during his first season on campus this fall. He's ready for more work.
LEO2 - Logan Klemp - The Jewell (IA) South Hamilton graduate possesses the athleticism required for this position.
CASH2 - Reggie Bracy - Really talented second-year player who could force his way onto the field here or at safety.
CB1 - Riley Moss - Solidified his position with a strong '20. Teams have learned their lesson and don't pick on him has frequently these days.
CB1 - Matt Hankins - Returns for his fourth season as a starter. Could be one of the better players at his position in the Big Ten.
FS1 - Jack Koerner - Heading into his third season as a starter and with losses elsewhere on D, Koerner will not only need to produce at his position but also be one of the main leaders on this side of the ball.
SS1 - Kaevon Merriweather - Began this past campaign as a backup but forced way into starting lineup. He's a big hitter with crazy athleticism. He could break out in '21.
CB2 - Jermari Harris - Coaches think enough of Harris that they brought him to Iowa State in '19. With another year under his belt, he should push for playing time.
CB2 - Terry Roberts - Competition for the backup cornerback and nickel work should be interesting. A.J. Lawson and Brenden Deasfernandes are young but talented.
FS2 - Xavior Williams - I'm putting Williams here but could see him lining up a multiple spots. He will see the field frequently.
SS2 - Sebastian Castro - It's a big year for Castro, who adds punch on special teams and provides strong depth in the backend.
P1 - Tory Taylor - A revelation in his first year stateside, the Australian was the Big Ten Punter of the Year.
P2 - Ryan Gersonde - Thought to be the punter of the future when he arrived on scholarship, the Wisconsin native has been hammered with injuries.