May 22, 2024

Less than a week has passed since the NCAA transfer portal opened for college football players, and the frenzy has been evident from the start. We are approaching the weekend. The Hawkeyes were heavily involved in the madness a season ago. With a sales pitch focused on a West title and quick playing time, the Hawkeyes were able to target several critical positions of need following a disappointing season that left them outside looking in for the Big Ten Championship Game.

In this cycle, Iowa has the worst offense in the country, but they are coming off a division title. It appears that needs are still present on that side of the ball. However, the playing pitch at that moment

In fact, Iowa might not even have enough playing time to offer through the portal, much less room for transfers. The Hawkeyes entered last weekend with three scholarship players over the limit for 2024, as shown in our transfer portal entry tracker, assuming no players who may have been considering an early departure for the NFL chose to leave.

Four Hawkeyes have now entered the transfer portal; keep an eye on the portal tracker, as it will be updated with each new entry. With 84 players currently scheduled to be on scholarship when the 20-member class of 2024 arrives next summer, Iowa is now officially under the limit.

The Hawkeyes could potentially go over 85 scholarship players for spring ball and have players choose to transfer after that window to get back under 85 for fall camp, as it’s important to remember that the scholarship cap only applies during the season.

Now, let’s assess the possibility that current players, who may decide to leave for the NFL or end their college playing careers, will decide to return to Iowa City for a second season in 2024. That comprises eight Hawkeyes in all from the 2023 class. Interestingly, nearly every one of them is on the ball’s defensive side.

Future NFL Players

Yahya Black
Before the season began, Yahya Black was not a name that many expected to appear here. However, Black had an outstanding season, recording 3.5 sacks and 50 tackles. He was a pillar of the Iowa defense in the middle and started to appear on draft boards in the latter stages. His NFL body is there at 6’5″ and 315 pounds; all he needed to do this season was show it on the field. The goal was achieved.

Will Black depart early then?

Although no official announcement has been made, it appears that Black has made the decision to return to Iowa City for one more ride. That would be a significant addition to the Iowa defense’s middle, particularly in light of Anterio Thompson’s decision to use the portal. There is not enough depth for the Hawkeyes at defensive tackle.

Luke Lachey
tense conclusion Luke Lachey was an entirely distinct narrative. Lachey had a strong sense going into the season that he was going to be the next great Iowa tight end to carry on the tradition of NFL tight ends from the program. However, an injury completely derailed the play before we could begin conference play.

Although Lachey possesses the physical attributes, his on-field output has been constrained thus far by injuries. He is a player who would undoubtedly be selected if he were to recover in time for the combine and perhaps even play in the bowl game on January 1. But if he returned for the following season and produced, he might also have the chance to make a significant impact on draft boards.

The decision? There aren’t many complaints about Lachey, but I’d rate this one as nearly 50/50.

DeJean Cooper
Even so, is this a question? Among this year’s Hawkeye class, Cooper DeJean is without a doubt the best possible draft choice. As the best defensive back and return specialist in the Big Ten in 2023, the finalist for the Nagurski and Thorpe Awards was an All-American. He was a lock for a first-round selection a month ago and was probably one of the top two corners available, making him a top-15 pick.

Then, though, he got hurt. And while that might have affected how Iowa finished its last few games, it might also have affected DeJean’s draft prospects. He usually recovers from broken bones in six weeks, so he should be good for the combine and not have any long-term effects until 2024.

I take it that this won’t affect his draft stock and that he won’t decline that paycheck? Yes?

My friends, don’t move so quickly. DeJean may still be forced to return because of the extremely slim possibility that his injury recovery timeline will prevent him from being at his best for the NFL combine. Because, although dropping a few spots might not seem like a big deal, there is a significant drop in guaranteed money from a mid-first rounder to a second rounder.

Beyond that, he could be among the select few former Hawkeyes to win those accolades twice and have the DeJean name on the Kinnick pess box as a unanimous All-American. Furthermore, (bear with me on this) has established itself as a name capable of the unimaginable.

Last season, he finally got some offensive playing time, and during that side of the ball practice, he actually suffered an injury. Could 2024 see him utilized there more frequently? If that’s the case, he could be the first player who plays mostly defense to genuinely have a shot at -gasp- the Heisman if he comes back.

Yes, and he has made unofficial references to it himself.

Sebastian Castro Super Seniors Senior Cash One person who truly belongs on both lists is Sebastian Castro. Castro, who has always been one of my favorite players to watch because he always seems to be shot out of a cannon when he’s on the field, gained national recognition this year as more people discovered this.

With 61 tackles and three interceptions at the end of the season, including a pick-six against Iowa State, he is now considered a possible draft pick. However, he is at the top of Phil Parker’s and the Swarm collective’s list of guys they would like to hang onto, and he does have a COVID year he could use.

Harris Jermari
Harris was somewhat of a different story this season, whereas Castro truly rose to prominence. The senior, who was opposite Cooper DeJean until his injury, found himself the target of some taunts after sitting out the first two games of the season. Nevertheless, he stepped up to the plate and finished the year as Iowa’s best healthy corner.

Along with a single interception, he finished the season with 39 tackles and a team-high eight pass breakups. Harris demonstrated his worth to be given a chance at the next level. However, in the current NIL environment, he might also be the centerpiece of the Iowa secondary in 2024, which would also come with a meager salary.

Quinn Schulte
Safety is less celebrated than Castro or Harris The Iowa defense’s quarterback in 2023 was identified as Quinn Schulte. Despite finishing with 60 tackles, four passes intercepted, and an interception, he was a vital member of one of the best defenses in the country. He now has to make a decision.

Schulte is expected to be drafted in the late rounds or as an undrafted free agent, and he may get a chance at training camp. There aren’t many assurances there, and Schulte might find it appealing to try running it back in Iowa City.

Have you already noticed a pattern here?

Higgins Jay
Sebastian Castro and Jay Higgins, a senior linebacker, are possibly the most compatible. Following in the footsteps of celebrities like Jack Campbell, Higgins earned his opportunity in 2023. He did not let anyone down, leading the Big Ten in tackles and being named to PFF’s First Team All-America. In his final season, Higgins recorded 155 total tackles, one interception, and a sack.

Even with those ridiculous numbers, Higgins is not the right size for the next level. In terms of statistics, it’s difficult to see him performing much better than leading the Big Ten in tacNick Jackson
This brings us to the final player who needs to make a choice. Prior to delving into that, let us first discuss Nick Jackson’s decision-making process. The graduate transfer’s eligibility has run out.

With the exception of Virginia, where he transferred to Iowa, their 2022 season was cut short due to the deaths of several teammates. Jackson and other former Cavaliers now have the chance to request an additional year. kles, and there isn’t much he could do physically to increase his draft stock. On the other hand, the NFL is a cutthroat industry, and size really does matter. Despite his exceptional skill, he has a limited draft position.

Jackson, like Higgins, has a high level of talent and an elite production profile, but he is not the right size for the NFL. Between now and next year, nothing will change in that regard. It appears that Jackson is giving serious thought to submitting that petition as a result. Similar to Higgins, there is a rumor that Jackson would accept the opportunity to run it back with his linebacking running partner.

For this reason, Higgins is rumored to be split 50/50 between staying in Iowa City for another year and leaving. Higgins would undoubtedly return if fellow linebacker Nick Jackson were to return, according to a number of people.

For those keeping score, only Cooper DeJean seems to be well below 50% to return out of the eight players who have to decide between graduation and the NFL. Iowa would have surpassed their portal additions from the previous year if they were to return seven or even six of these players. A small number of these players returning would significantly improve Iowa’s chances in 2024.

But the problem of scholarships comes along with that potential. None of the five possible super seniors are included in the 84 total mentioned above. The Hawkeyes would probably need to make some moves following spring ball to make room for any new transfers if any were to return.

In summary, things are looking up for the Hawkeyes in 2024, but the potential returns of several important players from 2023 will severely limit their ability to be active in the transfer portal.

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