Iowa football notebook | Ragaini to return for sixth season, DeJean out of concussion protocol

Wideout Nico Ragaini said he will play for Iowa in 2023 on Tuesday. Cornerback Cooper DeJean participated in the Hawkeyes’ Music City Bowl practice in Nashville.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras and wide receiver Nico Ragaini watch action during a 2022 Transperfect Music City Bowl Iowa football practice at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wide receiver Nico Ragaini will play a sixth collegiate season for Iowa football in 2023. After the Hawkeyes’ open Music City Bowl practice on Tuesday, the senior said he will utilize the extra year of eligibility the NCAA gave 2020-21 athletes because of COVID-19.

“When I was thinking about what I want to do, it was like, ‘I could take my chances with the NFL or come back here and do a sixth year,'” Ragaini said. “I’m choosing between two awesome opportunities. I think I’m very blessed with the opportunities I’ve been granted. Coming back here is a pretty awesome opportunity for me.”

Ragaini has hauled in 123 passes for 1,333 yards and four touchdowns across 48 career games. He’s recorded 32 catches for 365 yards and a touchdown in 10 contests this season.

Ragaini is one of three scholarship wide receivers that will play for the Hawkeyes this postseason, joining redshirt freshman Brody Brecht and sophomore Diante Vines. Sophomore wideouts Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce entered the transfer portal at the end of the regular season and will not be available for the Music City Bowl.

DeJean clears concussion protocol

Defensive back Cooper DeJean participated in Iowa’s open practice Tuesday. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound sophomore told The Daily Iowan he missed about a week of workouts because he suffered a concussion during the first quarter of Iowa’s 24-17 loss to Nebraska on Nov. 25.

“No, there wasn’t any doubt that I was going to play in the bowl game,” DeJean said. “I’m excited to get back out there after missing most of the last game.”

DeJean has recorded 68 tackles, 18 pass deflections, four interceptions, and two pick sixes this season.

Because Bruce is out of Iowa’s lineup, DeJean will likely be the Hawkeyes’ primary punt returner. DeJean gained 123 yards on seven returns during the regular season.

DeJean played both cash and cornerback for Iowa this season, plugging holes in the Hawkeyes’ defense while linebacker Jestin Jacobs and cornerback Terry Roberts were injured. Jacobs and Roberts both entered the transfer portal in December and will not play in the Music City Bowl.

DeJean was not seen taking reps at any offensive positions Tuesday, despite many fans and pundits clamoring for him start playing in all three phases.

With senior Spencer Petras sidelined because of an injury and junior Alex Padilla in the transfer portal, Iowa will only have two quarterbacks available for its matchup with Kentucky. Redshirt freshman Joe Labas will be the Hawkeyes’ starter on Saturday. True freshman Carson May is Iowa’s listed backup QB.

Senior tight end Sam LaPorta was seen taking reps at quarterback during Iowa’s practice on Tuesday. He later said he’ll be Iowa’s emergency backup quarterback for the Music City Bowl.

DeJean and senior defensive end Joe Evans both played quarterback in high school. Neither of them took snaps under center during Iowa’s open practice.

“I’ve been seeing that a lot,” DeJean said of fans demanding he play offense. “I’m more on the defensive side right now, so I’ll be good with that.”

Hawkeyes, Wildcats to compete in eating contest

Before they play each other on the gridiron, representatives from the Iowa and Kentucky football teams will compete in a Nashville Hot Chicken eating contest to be held Wednesday night. Defensive lineman Yahya Black and offensive linemen Mason Richman and Gennings Dunker are among the Hawkeyes participating in the event.

At 6-foot-5, 316-pounds, Dunker will be the largest competitor Iowa puts forth. A start time and list of participants have yet to be released for the event.

Just go, don’t slow down,” Richman said of his strategy heading into the competition. “I did The Blazin Challenge (at Buffalo Wilds Wings) a long time ago. All I told myself was ‘Just keep going and suffer later.’ It’s almost like a football mentality. You just gotta go … I’m just going to go as fast as I can, for sure. If you think you’re going to slow down, you’re wrong.”

Richman added that he won a Dunker-less rib-eating contest at Mosley’s Barbecue and Provisions in Iowa City in August.

“I don’t know who Kentucky’s bringing in,” Richman said. “A lot of their guys are from this area. They probably recruit this area pretty well. They probably know their hot chicken really well and have had it since birth or something. I mean, I’m going to bet on myself, for sure.”

Check out and @dipregame on Twitter all week for coverage of the Music City Bowl and its pregame festivities.