Iowa position preview: Will A.J. Epenesa start? Defensive line depth chart projections

Iowa football is back. The Hawkeyes are in camp, and the season quickly is approaching. Land of 10 is here to keep you informed and get you prepared for the season. In August, we are breaking down position groups. Here is a look at the defensive line.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Land of 10 is projecting the Iowa depth chart for the season opener. This isn’t what the depth chart looks like now or what it will look like before playing Wyoming on Sept. 2.

Instead, it’s our prediction on how the Hawkeyes will use and employ their players at each position.

Defensive line depth chart

Defensive end No. 1

1 — Anthony Nelson, sophomore

2 — Matt Nelson, junior

Defensive end No. 2

1 — Parker Hesse, senior

2 — A.J. Epenesa, true freshman

Defensive tackle No. 1

1 — Nathan Bazata, senior

2 — Garret Jansen, sophomore

Defensive tackle No. 2

1 — Cedrick Lattimore, sophomore

2 — Matt Nelson, junior

Note: Matt Nelson is listed as a backup at two spots. The expectation is he’ll rotate between them. Lattimore will play inside when Matt Nelson is at end and Anthony Nelson will man defensive end when Matt Nelson slides to defensive tackle.

The King — Anthony Nelson

Plenty of talent returns at defensive end and multiple players could hold this spot. But none of them bring the unique skill set the 6-foot-7, 260 pound sophomore possesses. If any Iowa defensive lineman is to break out for double-digit sacks this season, Anthony Nelson is the best shot. His upside lands him here.

The Wildcard — Cedrick Lattimore

Matt Nelson can’t play every rep out of position next to Bazata. Someone else needs to step up inside. Lattimore is the best bet. The 6-5, 295-pound sophomore is the defensive tackle of the future, but the Hawkeyes need him to be the defensive tackle of today.

If he can handle playing significant reps it eases concern about the youth at defensive tackle. It also gives Iowa the option to play Matt Nelson more at defensive end.

The Newcomer — A.J. Epenesa

The U.S. Army All-American is going to play as a true freshman. The only question is how much. He is  impressing coaches and teammates in practice. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker threw out 20 snaps as a guess when preseason camp opened.

The guess here is the Hawkeyes bring him along slow. As soon as he shows he’s capable of more — it could be before September is complete — his reps will increase. Starting isn’t out of the question this season.

The post Iowa position preview: Will A.J. Epenesa start? Defensive line depth chart projections appeared first on Land of 10.

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