Iowa Predictions: Two-Deep to All-Conference

Iowa Predictions: Two-Deep to All-Conference

Heading into the 2022 season, there are three Iowa players who have a great opportunity to make the unlikely jump from two-deep on the depth chart to All-Conference. Offensively, Arland Bruce IV exhibits a combination of skills that can transcend an individual season. On the other side of the ball, Lukas Van Ness has the tangibles to move from a dependable second-stringer to an All-Conference contender. Behind him, Terry Roberts at cornerback has a unique opportunity to claim the starting role mid-season while continuing his excellence on special teams.

Arland Bruce IV – Wide Receiver

As a true freshman in 2021, Bruce was given the opportunity to see the field, and he took advantage. He began the year as an effective decoy, not seeing any targets in the first few games. That changed in October against Maryland. Bruce recorded his first collegiate touchdown reception and began to be utilized at a higher clip. From that game on, he tallied 24 receptions, averaging nine yards per catch. Bruce is second on the depth chart at receiver behind senior Nico Ragaini. However, he is one of the guys for Iowa that can turn his two-deep roster position into an All-Conference performance.

Iowa will not be a team that lights up the passing game, nor is that something that will likely change this fall. While their passing is not the most flashy method of travel up and down the field, Bruce has an advantage that not all the other receivers do. He is utilized in the run game on the outside. It’s an advantage that can be the catalyst to making a solid year receiving into an All-Conference campaign. 

Bruce was handed the ball 10 times last season. Eight of those touches were on a jet-sweep end-around resulting in 40 yards, two touchdowns, and two carries of more than 10 yards. In high school and since recruitment, Bruce has shown great speed and quickness in open space. The Hawkeye offense needed that change of pace and burst out of the backfield and got it last season with Bruce. If he continues to be effective in that phase of the game, he has an opportunity to break out this year. 

Lukas Van Ness – Defensive Line

The Hawkeye defensive front keeps nearly all their pieces in place heading into 2022. One of those pieces is Van Ness at the interior defensive line. In 2021 as a redshirt freshman, Van Ness played in all 14 games, recording seven sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. He earned a 71.8 pass rushing grade according to Pro Football Focus and was named to the freshman All-American team by the FWAA. 

At spring practice, Van Ness showed up bigger and looked even quicker than he did a year ago. At 6’-5” and around 270 pounds, the sophomore appeared ready to take the field for a game in mid-October. He is currently listed behind Noah Shannon, the reliable senior defensive tackle. 

Van Ness will get on the field often despite his second-team listing. He has shown the physical traits and agility of a veteran on the line of scrimmage, he is just lacking the actual years of playing time. Coming off the bench in 2022 shows the depth that Iowa has at the defensive line position. However, it may not even hinder Van Ness from eclipsing the double-digit sack mark. The last Hawkeye to reach that mark was AJ Epenesa in 2018 and 2019. In the 2018 season, Epenesa reached 10.5 sacks without recording a start. Van Ness is well positioned to make a push at that very feat this fall. 

Terry Roberts – Cornerback

Last season, Roberts played in the first five games of the season at cornerback and on special teams. He filled in for the injured Riley Moss as the starter at cornerback against Purdue, before getting injured himself. Roberts’ season was cut short. Even so, his skills at cornerback and lock-down coverage on the punt team were pivotal in the Hawkeyes’ 6-0 start last season. 

On the fall camp depth chart, Roberts is listed behind Jermari Harris at cornerback. Roberts will, however, start the first game of the season against South Dakota State. Harris is serving a one-game suspension for being arrested for an OWI last spring. Roberts’ performance against the Jackrabbits on September 3rd can go a long way in his competition for the position. He’ll be playing opposite of preseason All-American Moss, who will likely ward off targets from his coverage side. 

With the opportunity to start the season and fully pick up where he left off last October, Roberts is in a great position to take a step forward. He played 97 snaps in coverage last season and 168 total on defense as a fourth-year junior. Those snap numbers nearly quadrupled his totals from 2020. In 2021, Roberts gave up just six catches on 15 targets. He also excelled as a gunner on the punt team. Hawkeye punter Tory Taylor downed 39 of his 80 punts inside the 20-yard line. A big reason for those numbers was Roberts getting back in coverage and downing kicks. If the pieces fall into place, Roberts can emerge as the next key coverage defender at cornerback and a special teams asset. He’ll have one of the better opportunities for Iowa to go from two-deep to All-Conference.