The newest crop of college football players are starting to arrive on campuses all over the country. Freshmen and transfers will make their first impressions at summer classes and workouts with their new, veteran teammates in the next couple of weeks. Most will be hoping to lay the groundwork for an immediate impact this season. This week on the Big Ten blog, we will be identifying the player from each of the league’s teams who has the best chance to become a well-known name by the end of the fall.
Up next: Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa top newcomer: TE Noah Fant
With the recent transfer of redshirt sophomore Jameer Outsey, the Hawkeyes aren’t so settled on their depth chart after TE George Kittle. Outsey was the spring backup and brought some semblance of experience to the position, considering he and Kittle were the only tights end on the roster with a catch to their names.
That means there’s an obvious opening, and it just so happens that the Hawkeyes’ top-rated incoming freshman is Fant, who turned down offers from the likes of Nebraska and UCLA. He’s not guaranteed playing time -- fellow incoming freshman T.J. Hockenson might have something to say about that -- but he’s still a talented player with an opportunity. And opportunities aren’t so easy to come by for first-year players who find themselves on teams that started out 12-0 the year before.
That isn’t lost on Fant, who already has his eyes set on playing time. Heck, even before Outsey’s transfer, the Nebraska native was intent on skipping a redshirt. “There’s an opportunity for me to play and play for a spot, so I’m going in aggressive and trying to earn that spot as quick as I can and get better as fast as I can,” Fant told Omaha.com about a week before Outsey’s announcement.
Fant is a physically imposing freshman, a 6-foot-4 athlete who ran a laser-timed 4.64-second 40-yard dash. ESPN’s scouts identified him as an early contributor on special teams, and he caught a school-record 46 passes (and 10 touchdowns) as a high school senior.
It’s clear that Kirk Ferentz and Co. thought highly of him. They regularly sent him direct messages on Twitter in what Fant termed an “out of this world” recruiting effort. And tight end has been an important position for the Hawkeyes; last season’s top-two TEs finished second and fourth on the team, respectively, in receiving.
Fant is versatile, fast and boasts high expectations. He’ll make an impact on this team at some point in his Iowa career -- but he has the potential to surprise very soon.