Iowa football releases first depth chart for fall 2023: 5 things you need to know

INDIANAPOLIS − The annual summer release of Iowa’s preseason depth chart always is met with curiosity ... and an asterisk.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz sometimes even feigns surprise even at who is on the depth chart, regularly diminishing the value of what it says. That's his way of making sure players don't take it too seriously, either, and that they continue to compete for upward movement on their way to securing a starting role.
But the depth chart, however long ago it was submitted to appear in the 2023 Hawkeye media guide that was released Wednesday morning, gives us a starting road map for what’s ahead when fall camp begins. Iowa players will report for fall camp Tuesday and take part in their first official practice of the 2023 season on Aug. 2, with the season opener exactly one month later, Sept. 2 vs. Utah State.
What did we learn from Wednesday’s reveal? Here are five takeaways, plus the depth chart itself.
The backup quarterback
We know Cade McNamara is QB1, and his good health will be paramount to the Hawkeyes’ season. But how does Iowa view the backup role? We saw how critical the backup quarterback can become, with now-transferred Alex Padilla coming off the bench in key moments in each of the last two seasons with mixed results.
More:Why 'old' guy Nico Ragaini can be a key piece in Iowa football’s new-look offense in 2023
Joe Labas, who has one career game and won it as a starter – 21-0 in the Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky – shared spring-game reps with Wisconsin transfer Deacon Hill, but Ferentz said after spring practice that Hill had gained a slight edge over Labas to be the No. 2 guy, even though Labas entered the spring at No. 2. Yet there was Labas back at No. 2 in Wednesday's depth chart, with Hill No. 3. The meaningful backup quarterback derby will heat up in a week.
The offensive line
Three-fifths of the offensive line was thought to be a no-brainer, with returning starters at left tackle (Mason Richman), left guard (Connor Colby) and center (Logan Jones). But in a bit of a surprise, fifth-year senior Nick DeJong is the listed starter at left guard, with Colby on the second team.
DeJong had been the No. 1 right tackle on the spring depth chart, but that spot is now being held down by redshirt sophomore Gennings Dunker, the two-time reigning champion of the Solon Beef Days hay-bale toss. That may sound minor, but big names like Tyler Linderbaum and Tristan Wirfs are past hay-bale champions.
More:Leistikow: Logan Jones, Daijon Parker critical to solving Iowa football's offensive-line woes
Right guard will be an interesting battle. For now, Beau Stephens is listed ahead of Miami of Ohio transfer Rusty Feth. But Feth, a four-year starter in the Mid-American Conference, only arrived in June, so he'll have every opportunity to win that job.
No Kaleb Brown, for now
The Hawkeyes are going to make their transfer receiver from Ohio State earn his spot on the two-deep. Though Brown became the first-ever Ferentz-era top-100 receiver recruit when he committed to Iowa in May, the redshirt freshman with one career catch for five yards has more to prove to coaches. After all, next Wednesday's practice will be his first with the Hawkeyes. He was not among the five listed receivers on the depth chart.
More:Leistikow: What brought Kaleb Brown from Ohio State to Iowa, and his plans to become a star
“No one man can be bigger than the program. Yes, (with) Kaleb, we’re hoping and expecting him to be a big part of our offense and to be a valuable weapon moving forward,” Iowa seventh-year wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland said on an appearance on this week’s Hawk Central radio show. “But it’s not just about Kaleb. I don’t want to start putting too much pressure on Kaleb. … Because in my humble opinion, that just wouldn’t be fair.”
It should be noted, too, that Charleston Southern transfer Seth Anderson is not on the depth chart, either. A hamstring injury kept him out of spring practice. He, too, must earn his spot in the rotation starting next week.
The defensive backs
Cooper DeJean is the star of Iowa's defense, coming off a year of five interceptions and three pick-sixes, and was voted the preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year. But just how good this secondary can be will depend on the performance of first-year starting strong safety Xavier Nwankpa ... and the depth of the group. Gone are Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather, both of whom will likely be on NFL rosters this fall.
More:Iowa picked to finish second in West, Cooper DeJean named Big Ten Preseason Defensive POTY
So, we need to know what to expect there if, gasp, DeJean gets hurt like he did in the first series against Nebraska, an injury that changed the game and triggered a 24-17 Iowa loss. Behind the talented junior cornerback is sophomore TJ Hall. The other listed starting cornerback is Jermari Harris, who missed all of the 2022 season, with unproven Deshaun Lee backing him up. The depth chart is a little reminder that the margin for error in the defensive backfield is small, and development from defensive coordinator Phil Parker's bunch will be a key storyline over the next month or two.
Some final observations
Welcome to the depth chart, Hayden Large. The Dordt graduate transfer arrived as a tight end but inserted himself as the leading candidate to be Iowa's primary fullback with a strong spring. Eli Miller was ticketed for that spot but suffered a season-ending injury, opening the door for Large, whose size (6-5, 250) lives up to his name. .... Virginia transfer Nick Jackson is the second-team middle linebacker, but expect him to jump into the starting lineup alongside Jay Higgins eventually. ... Sixth-year senior Noah Shannon, despite being part of the sports-gambling investigation, is listed as a starting defensive tackle. ... There are no alarming absences on the depth chart, indicating a decent health report for the summer program.
More:Iowa football's Noah Shannon to miss Big Ten Media Days due to NCAA gambling investigation
Iowa's 2023 preseason depth chart
The two-deep was released Wednesday morning by UI.
Wide receiver: Nico Ragaini (6-0, 190), sixth-year senior; Reese Osgood (5-11, 189), RS freshman; Jacob Bostick (6-2, 183), RS freshman
Tight end: Luke Lachey (6-6, 253), RS junior; Erick All (6-5, 250), RS senior; Addison Ostrenga (6-4, 255), sophomore
Left tackle: Mason Richman (6-6, 312), RS junior; Jack Dotzler (6-6, 295), RS freshman
Left guard: Nick DeJong (6-6, 305), RS senior; Connor Colby (6-6, 311), junior
Center: Logan Jones (6-3, 290), RS junior; Tyler Elsbury (6-5, 312), RS junior
Right guard: Beau Stephens (6-6, 319), RS sophomore; Rusty Feth (6-3, 310), RS senior
Right tackle: Gennings Dunker (6-5, 320), RS sophomore; Daijon Parker (6-5, 315), RS senior
Wide receiver: Diante Vines (6-0, 198), RS junior; Alec Wick (6-1, 193), RS sophomore
Quarterback: Cade McNamara (6-1, 205), RS senior; Joe Labas (6-4, 213), RS sophomore; Deacon Hill (6-3, 258), RS sophomore
Running back: Kaleb Johnson (6-0, 222), sophomore; Leshon Williams (5-10, 208), RS junior; Jaziun Patterson (5-10, 204), RS freshman
Fullback: Hayden Large (6-5, 250), senior
Placekicker: Drew Stevens (6-0, 199), sophomore
Left defensive end: Deontae Craig (6-3, 266), RS junior; Max Llewellyn (6-5, 264), RS sophomore
Left defensive tackle: Noah Shannon (6-0, 295), sixth-year senior; Aaron Graves (6-4, 293), sophomore
Right defensive tackle: Logan Lee (6-5, 291), RS senior; Yahya Black (6-5, 315), RS junior
Right defensive end: Joe Evans (6-2, 252), sixth-year senior; Ethan Hurkett (6-3, 260), RS junior
Middle linebacker: Jay Higgins (6-2, 233), senior; Nick Jackson (6-0, 237), RS senior
Weak-side linebacker: Kyler Fisher (5-11, 233), RS senior; Karson Sharar (6-2, 235), RS sophomore
Cash/outside linebacker: Sebastian Castro (5-11, 205), RS senior; Jaxon Rexroth (6-2, 228), RS sophomore
Left cornerback: Cooper DeJean (6-1, 207), junior; TJ Hall (6-0, 185), sophomore
Strong safety: Xavier Nwankpa (6-2, 210), sophomore; Sebastian Castro (5-11, 205), RS senior
Free safety: Quinn Schulte (6-1, 209), RS senior; Koen Entringer (6-0, 211), RS freshman
Right cornerback: Jermari Harris (6-1, 190), RS junior; Deshaun Lee (5-10, 187), RS freshman
Punter: Tory Taylor (6-4, 232), senior
Long snapper: Luke Elkin (6-1, 230), junior

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