Xavier Nwankpa

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Earning the starting spot at “Cash” (a hybrid linebacker/safety role in Iowa’s 4-2-5 base defense) is a pretty telling accomplishment.

Consider that the last three starters at the position — Amani Hooker, Geno Stone, and Dane Belton — are either in the NFL or, in Belton’s case, about to be drafted. Who better to carry on the cash legacy than one of the highest-rated recruits in program history?

Xavier Nwankpa will be roaming the field at cash for the Hawkeyes this fall.

At 6-foot-2 and a bulked-up 211 pounds, Nwankpa is the ideal size for the position — quick enough to fly through the secondary while strong enough to be an imposing figure in the box.

Nwankpa has had individual film sessions with Iowa defensive coordinator and DBs coach Phil Parker since the freshman enrolled in January. So far, the five-star recruit has lived up to the hype, both on the field in practice and in the way he studies the game, Parker said.

Asking a freshman to play a rather complex and crucial role on Iowa’s defense is tough. There’s a lot to learn in not much time before the opening game. Enrolling early should help “X” some in that regard, though. Similar to how Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV broke out on offense during the 2021 season, I think Nwankpa will instantly become a key component on the back end for the Hawkeyes in 2022.

Oh, and just between us, Austin thinks Nwankpa will start at cash, too, and he’s being forced to argue for someone else. So we’re all in agreement here.