247Sports tabs Iowa safety Xavier Nwankpa as Hawkeyes’ freshman to watch

·3 min read

It’s no secret that Xavier Nwankpa arrives in Iowa City with a full steam of hype behind him. After an impressive spring, the 6-foot-2, 190 pound freshman safety has only added more fuel to that fire.

The Pleasant Hill, Iowa, native chose to stay home and play for the Hawkeyes. In the process, the Southeast Polk High School product rebuffed offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State just to name a few.

247Sports’ Sam Marsdale picked Nwankpa for Iowa in his list of freshmen sparking excitement for Big Ten teams.

A 247Sports five-star recruit as the top-ranked safety, Iowa held off many powerhouses to keep Nwanpka at home. The combination of athleticism, length, clutch play-making, swagger and instincts made him one of the most highly-sought after prospects in the country. Iowa was among the first schools to jump in for his services, but it’s difficult to ward off Ohio State, Notre Dame and just about everyone else. Watch out for him to see the field quickly in Iowa City. – Sam Marsdale, 247Sports.

Naturally, the fact that Nwankpa spurned the types of schools that he did to become a Hawkeye will have him in good graces with Iowa fans from the get-go. As Marsdale mentioned, it’s Nwankpa’s playmaking ability that will keep him there.

According to 247Sports, Nwankpa was a five-star recruit, the No. 25 player nationally, the No. 1 safety and the top player from the state of Iowa in the 2022 signing class. Rivals also ranked Nwankpa as a five-star talent, the No. 19 player overall, the No. 1 safety and the top player from the Hawkeye State.

Meanwhile, ESPN and On3 both listed Nwankpa as a four-star prospect. According to ESPN, Nwankpa was the nation’s No. 155 player overall and the No. 9 safety. On3 ranked Nwankpa as the country’s No. 127 player overall, the No. 10 safety and the No. 2 player from the state of Iowa.

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz had glowing remarks about the impressions both Nwankpa and fellow freshman defensive back TJ Hall have made thus far following the Hawkeyes’ conclusion of their open spring practice on April 23.

“I think we’re going to see a big jump just in terms of his confidence and just being a little bit more decisive with his play when we get back in August. And he’s done some really good things. He flashes some things that are like, you know, you can see the guy that we knew he is. That will show up on special teams, too. He’s just a tremendous young guy, great personality and demeanor, really good to work with, good work ethic and good work habits. He’s doing a great job in the classroom as well, so it’s really been great and say the same thing about TJ Hall. They’re both back there together as true freshmen. They both just are really doing a nice job so far,” Ferentz said.

While Kaevon Merriweather, Sebastian Castro, Quinn Schulte and Jaxon Rexroth were the players listed on Iowa’s initial two-deep to start the spring, it could be just a matter of time before Nwankpa cracks that rotation.

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