Could Iowa’s talented duo return for their senior seasons?
Take a glance at just about anyone’s NFL mock draft, and you won’t have to look far for a pair of Iowa linemen: offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa, both juniors.
It’s possible, though, that you’ll see those same two names in 2021 mock drafts.
That’s because both may decide to return to Iowa for the senior years, according to Pro Football Network draft analyst Tony Pauline.
“Sources close to the program tell me they still believe Tristan Wirfs will return to school after the season, despite being graded as a top half of round one prospect,” Pauline said in Pro Football Network’s live blog on Saturday. “I’m told the situation is similar for A.J. Epenesa – the feeling around the program is Epenesa will be back in 2020. While this may change, Iowa has done a good job of retaining highly rated underclassmen in the past, sometimes to the detriment of the player (think Desmond King).”
Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, on soaking up the day in case it was his last game at Kinnick.
"Always. You soak in every home game. I haven’t thought about that process, and I’ll look into that process later on after the bowl game."
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) November 23, 2019
Epenesa (6-6, 280) is the No. 7-ranked player in the latest Fanspeak big board. Wirfs (6-5, 322) is ranked No. 9.
While Wirfs has had a solid season, playing both right tackle (his usual position) and left tackle (as an injury replacement for Alaric Jackson), Espenesa has had a bit of an up-and-down season. He currently has seven sacks, with all but one of them coming in his last six games. And he performed well in the team’s upset win over Minnesota when he moved inside to defensive tackle.
“Epenesa is an interesting case,” Pauline said. “Some people were surprised when I left him out of the first round in my recent mock draft. Yet, when speaking to sources, the feeling is Epenesa is not having a good season and it’s in his best interest to return.”
Check out Wirfs in the clip below with kicker Keith Duncan.
Iowa's kicker's TikTok game is strong.https://t.co/iq2PqZXiZI
— Russ Mitchell (@RussIowa) November 23, 2019