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8 Hawkeyes Earn Phil Steele Preseason Recognition

8 Hawkeyes Earn Phil Steele Preseason Recognition

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three University of Iowa football players — junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa, junior offensive lineman Alaric Jackson, and junior wide receiver and return specialist Ihmir Smith-Marsette — were named to Phil Steele’s 2019 second-team preseason All-America team to headline eight Hawkeyes who earned preseason recognition. Smith-Marsette was named as a return specialist.

Epenesa, Jackson, and Smith-Marsette were also named to Steele’s first-team preseason All-Big Ten team. Five other Hawkeyes also garnered preseason All-Big Ten recognition.

Senior quarterback Nate Stanley and junior defensive back Geno Stone were named to the third team, while senior tight end Nate Wieting, junior offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs and senior linebacker Kristian Welch were fourth-team selections.

Epenesa (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) was previously named a preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon Sports and to the 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List. Last season, he led the Big Ten Conference and ranked 12th nationally with 10.5 sacks to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. As a sophomore, he totaled 37 stacks with 16.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, four pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery.

Epenesa, a native of Glen Carbon, Illinois, was one of five finalists for Polynesian Player of the Year in 2018. He was named co-Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten for his play in wins over Illinois and Iowa State.

Against Illinois, he recorded a career-best eight tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, along with a forced fumble and a recovery that he returned for touchdown. He also blocked a punt that led to an Iowa touchdown on the following play. His sack and forced fumble in the 27-22 Outback Bowl victory over No. 18 Mississippi State led to Iowa’s final touchdown.

Jackson (6-7, 320) is a native of Detroit and earned preseason first team All-Big Ten honors by Athlon Sports. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors a year ago. He has started 12 straight games at left tackle, helping the Hawkeye offense average 31.2 points per game last season. He has started 24 games in two seasons.

Smith-Marsette (6-1, 177), a native of Newark, New Jersey, was previously named an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-Big Ten selection as a return specialist. He was named the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year in the Big Ten last season. He led the Big Ten and ranked second in the nation in kickoff return average (29.5). He was 12th in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards and set an Outback Bowl record with 150 yards in kickoff returns in Iowa’s 27-22 win over No. 18 Mississippi State. He also recorded 23 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.

Stanley (6-4, 243) was previously named an Athlon Sports preseason fourth-team All-Big Ten selection. The native of Menomonie, Wisconsin, has started all 26 games over the past two seasons, leading the Hawkeyes to consecutive bowl victories while tossing 26 touchdown passes each season. He has passed for more than 2,400 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter. His career numbers include 52 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while throwing for 5,351 yards.

Stone (5-10, 210) was previously named an Athlon Sports preseason second-team All-Big Ten selection. He moved into the starting lineup for eight games last season and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten. The native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, tied for the team lead with four interceptions, returning one of those thefts for a touchdown at Penn State. Stone recorded 39 tackles.

Wieting (6-4, 250) saw action in 12 games last season with two starts. The Rockford, Illinois, native finished with two receptions and 51 yards.

Wirfs (6-5, 320) was previously named to the Athlon Sports preseason All-Big Ten second team. He started 12 straight games at right tackle a year ago and has 20 starts in his two seasons. The native of Mount Vernon, Iowa, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition last season.

Welch (6-3, 239) saw action in 12 games with three starts at middle linebacker and three starts at weakside position. The Iola, Wisconsin, native recorded 49 tackles with one sack, one interception, one pass break-up, one forced fumble, and one recovered fumble.

The Hawkeyes open the 2019 season Aug. 31, hosting Miami, Ohio.

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