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Karson Sharar, Xavier Nwankpa among starters on Iowa football spring depth chart
Cade McNamara is only transfer addition to start spring in first-team role
IOWA CITY — Iowa football posted its first depth chart of 2023 on Wednesday — the first day of spring practices.
A lot can change between now and September, and even during the season, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz’s midweek depth charts often differ from what the Hawkeyes show on Saturdays.
That being said, here are some early takeaways:
Some portal players on depth chart, but not all
Four of Iowa’s transfer portal additions — quarterback Cade McNamara, tight end Erick All Jr., offensive lineman Daijon Parker and quarterback Deacon Hill — are listed on the two-deeps.
McNamara is the only transfer addition to be a starter going into spring practices. (Joe Labas is the second-team quarterback, and Hill is the third-teamer. Luke Lachey is the starting tight end.)
Linebacker Nick Jackson and offensive lineman Rusty Feth have not enrolled at Iowa yet, so their exclusion from the spring depth chart is par for the course.
Wide receiver Seth Anderson is on the roster, but not on the depth chart. Ferentz said Anderson is battling a “soft tissue” injury.
The starters at wide receiver are Nico Ragaini and Diante Vines, with reserves Alec Wick, Reese Osgood and Jacob Bostick. Wick and Osgood have been walk-ons.
Bostick is “for sure” out for the spring, though, with a foot injury.
Offensive line with similar look
The first-team offensive line — left tackle Mason Richman, left guard Connor Colby, center Logan Jones, right guard Beau Stephens and right tackle Nick DeJong — is similar to what Iowa fans have seen before.
The only difference from the Music City Bowl first-team offensive line is Stephens starting at right guard instead of Gennings Dunker.
Jack Dotzler, a redshirt freshman from Waunakee, Wis., is the second-team left tackle. Tyler Elsbury continues to be the backup left guard, and Michael Myslinski is the backup center again. Dunker is behind Stephens, and Parker is behind DeJong.
The offensive line is particularly thin because of injuries, Ferentz said Wednesday.
"It’s frustrating when guys can’t practice because that’s really where you get better, especially up front on both sides of the ball,“ he said.
Higgins, Sharar are starters at linebacker
Jay Higgins and Karson Sharar are the listed starters at middle and weakside linebackers for the spring.
Jaden Harrell and Kyler Fisher are the second-team middle and weakside linebackers.
Defensive back Sebastian Castro is the starter at Cash, with sophomore Kelby Telander as Iowa’s top Leo option. Telander, a North Liberty native, is a walk-on who was a kid captain in 2009, has not seen game action yet.
The linebacker portion of the depth chart is likely to see some changes, though, when Jackson arrives on campus.
The position group will be looking to replace Jack Campbell, Seth Benson and Jestin Jacobs. Campbell was Iowa’s first recipient of the Butkus Award, which goes to the top linebacker in the country.
“To think we’re going to replace Jack Campbell is not realistic,” Ferentz said.
Ferentz said he is “really excited” about this year’s linebacker group, though.
X with a starting spot
Former five-star recruit Xavier Nwankpa is listed as the starting strong safety after returning an interception for a touchdown in his first career start at the Music City Bowl.
Nwankpa, Ferentz said, “really did a good job there” in Nashville, which has some parralels to Cooper DeJean’s success a year earlier in the Citrus Bowl.
“I’m not saying it’s exactly like Cooper’s story, but he played more as the year went on and just kept getting more and more comfortable,” Ferentz said.
Castro, the starting Cash safety, is behind Nwankpa at strong safety. Fellow safety Jaxon Rexroth is listed behind Castro and Telander at Cash/Leo.
Elsewhere in the secondary, DeJean and Jermari Harris are the starting cornerbacks. Quinn Schulte is the starting free safety again.
Sophomore T.J. Hall and redshirt freshmen Koen Entringer and Deshaun Lee have second-team roles in the secondary.
“If we’re going to have a good football team, we need them to take that next step,” Ferentz said. “And I think they will. I really feel good about the way they work, and they’re great guys in the program.”