IOWA CITY, Iowa — Four University of Iowa football student-athletes — junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa, junior offensive lineman Alaric Jackson, junior offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, and junior wide receiver and return specialist Ihmir Smith-Marsette — garnered preseason honors by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Epenesa and Jackson were first-team All-America selections, while Wirfs was a second-team All-America selection. Epenesa was named preseason CFN Big Ten Defensive Player of the year along with all four Hawkeyes being named to the All-Big Ten team. Smith-Marsette was selected as a return specialist.
Last season, Epenesa (6-foor-6, 280-pounds) led the Big Ten and ranked 12th nationally in sacks (10.5), ranked second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in forced fumbles (4), and ranked fourth in the conference in tackles for loss (16.5). The Glen Carbon, Illinois, native also recorded 37 tackles, four pass break-ups, eight pressures, and a blocked punt.
This summer, Epenesa has been named to the 2019 Bednarik Award Watch List, 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List, and the first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America team by Athlon Sports.
Jackson (6-7, 320) is a native of Detroit and earned preseason first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America 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.
Wirfs (6-5, 320) was previously named an Athlon Sports preseason fourth-team All-America selection and a second-team All-Big Ten selection. 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.
Smith-Marsette (6-1, 177), a native of Newark, New Jersey, was previously named an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-America team and 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.
The Hawkeyes open the 2019 season Aug. 31, hosting Miami, Ohio. For ticket information, visit hawkeyesports.com/tickets.