Two Iowa Hawkeyes make ESPN’s Top 100 Players of 2023

The defense of the Iowa Hawkeyes did everything in their power to will the team to 10 wins during the 2023 college football season. It was a group effort and included standout performances from different players each week.

But, week in and week out, two players stood out among the rest and didn’t let themselves miss a beat. Those two stars are cornerback Cooper DeJean and linebacker Jay Higgins.

The dominant performances of Higgins and DeJean have landed them inside ESPN’s Top 100 Players of the 2023 college football season. DeJean is touted at No. 19 overall in the rankings and Higgins finds himself at No. 66.

19. Cooper DeJean

CB, Iowa, Junior

Notable 2023 stats: 26 solo tackles, 2 INT, 5 PD
Preseason ranking: 46

A vital piece of an Iowa defense that does a lot of things right, DeJean, No. 13 on Kiper’s Big Board, was the linchpin. DeJean, a unanimous All-American, recorded 41 tackles (26 solo), 2 interceptions and 5 passes defended for the country’s fifth-best defense (274.8 YPG). – ESPN

DeJean was a riser in these rankings, climbing 27 spots from No. 46 to cracking the top 20. The Iowa native did it all for the Hawkeyes whenever he touched the field. He took away one side in the passing game, made teams pay when throwing at him, and delivered knockout blows on punt returns.

Still to be determined is DeJean’s fate moving forward. He has yet to announce if he will return to the Hawkeyes for one more year or declare for the 2024 NFL draft where he will surely be a first-round pick.

66. Jay Higgins

LB, Iowa, Senior

Notable 2023 stats: 79 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 INT
Preseason ranking: NR

Higgins, a Butkus Award semifinalist, was a first-team All-Big Ten selection for a stingy Iowa defense that spearheaded a 10-win regular season. His 171 tackles (79 solo) this season led the Big Ten, ranked second nationally and was the most by a player from a Power 5 conference. – ESPN

Higgins went above and beyond for the Hawkeyes this season. Not only did he have 79 solo tackles, he tied Andre Jackson’s Iowa record for most total tackles in a single season with 171. He was stout in the run and flashed at times in the passing game and pass rushing department.

Higgins has announced his plans moving forward. Those plans include another year leading the Hawkeyes’ defense with the decision to return. Higgins has the opportunity to stamp his name into the Hawkeyes’ legacy with another massive year.

One glaring miss from the top 100 players is that of punter Tory Taylor. Taylor was the best punter in America and a true weapon of field position that set up the Iowa defense. It is not hyperbolic to say that the Ray Guy Award winner is the sole reason that Iowa came out on top of a few games.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire