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Help is on the way: Iowa Hawkeyes

We’re taking a look this week at an area of need for each Big Ten team, and how the 2016 recruiting class can help with the problem. Next up are the Iowa Hawkeyes:

Biggest need for 2016: Defensive end

Nate Meier is gone, and Drew Ott clings to hope for a hardship waiver from the Big Ten that would restore a year of eligibility in 2016.

Until the Hawkeyes hear something on Ott, they must prepare for next season as if they'll be without the feared pass rusher. And that’s bit of a scary thought. Parker Hesse, after Ott was lost for the season in Week 6, did play admirably though. A natural for the position, Hesse figures to improve on his production after making 44 tackles, three sacks and a key pick-six against Nebraska.

But Meier is a big loss. He led Iowa with seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss while accumulating 76 stops -- nearly twice the total of Iowa’s second-most productive lineman.

Rising sophomore Matt Nelson is slated to fill Meier’s spot after performing well as a backup. Sophomore Sam Brincks and redshirt freshman Anthony Nelson enter the fray this spring with little experience.

The Hawkeyes also signed Michael Slater and Brady Reiff in 2015.

How the 2016 recruiting class can help: Defensive end is a big need for the Hawkeyes, and that has been proven by the recruiting efforts in both the 2016 and 2017 classes.

For 2016, Iowa has five defensive ends committed, the highest ranked being Brandon Simon out of New Jersey, a three-star prospect.

The Hawkeyes also landed commitments from Romeo McKnight, Cedrick Lattimore, Chauncey Golston and Austin Schulte in the 2016 class. The biggest of the bunch is in the 2017 class, however, and won’t hit campus for another year.

A.J. Epenesa, a legacy recruit, committed to Iowa and instantly became the highest ranked commitment for the Hawkeyes since at least 2006. Ranked as the No. 53 prospect in the 2017 class, Epenesa had offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC among others.

That was not only a big recruiting win for the staff, but it will eventually be a big help on the field along the defensive line. -- Tom VanHaaren