The Monday Kickoff: The Favorite Stories Of The 2019 Hawkeyes

Nico Ragaini (89) has 41 receptions this season, tied for the team lead. (Jeffrey Becker/USA Today Sports)
John Bohnenkamp

We knew, before Iowa's football season started, that Nate Stanley would be good. And of course, the Iowa quarterback has thrown for 2,639 yards and 14 touchdowns and will leave as one of the top quarterbacks on the school's all-time lists.

We knew A.J. Epenesa would be, well, A.J. Epenesa. And, despite all of the double-teams, chips, holds, etc., that the defensive end has faced this season, he still has a team-high seven sacks.

We knew Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson would be good as bookend tackles, and they have been.

But this season has had its occasional surprises and that's why Iowa is 8-3 heading into Friday's regular-season finale at Nebraska. So these are some of my favorite stories:

Keith Duncan

Let's see, we saw Duncan kick the game-winning field goal against Michigan back in 2016, then after that season we didn't see him again until this season.

And all Duncan has done is kick 27 field goals, the best season in not just Iowa history, but in the Big Ten. He's had three games of four field goals this season (all wins) and he's one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, given to the top placekicker in college football.

He's also one of the better personalities on the team — then again, kickers and punters usually fall into that category.

Tyler Goodson

Can't wait to talk to him eventually — true freshmen are off-limits to the media.

But the running back has shown a lot of versatility this season, with 474 rushing yards and 146 receiving yards. He's a speed back the Hawkeyes haven't had in a while, and nobody knew much about him until his first carries.

Nico Ragaini

The redshirt freshman wide receiver is currently tied for the team lead in receptions with 41. He's become a favorite target of Stanley, and is part of a deep receiving corps that includes Brandon Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Tyrone Tracy. All will be back next season.

Tyrone Tracy

Speaking of Tracy, the redshirt freshman wide receiver has 34 catches (third on the team) for 569 yards (second on the team).

Tracy has stepped into the position open because of Smith's ankle injury, and has the longest pass reception of the season, a 75-yarder from Stanley for a late touchdown against Wisconsin.

Tracy has said, in numerous interviews, that he wants to be "electric," and he's done that on multiple occasions.

Kristian Welch

The senior linebacker leads the Hawkeyes with 70 tackles, and he's third on the team with six tackles for loss. Oh, by the way, he missed three games with a stinger.

Iowa's defense has been great all season. Welch, in the middle, has been the key to all of that.

The safeties

Jack Koerner is second on the team with 62 tackles. Geno Stone is third with 57.

Stone was a known quantity before the season started. Koerner has been a surprise.

Much like Welch, the two have anchored the middle of the field.

Djimon Colbert

Colbert came to Iowa as a defensive back, and moved to linebacker after redshirting as a freshman.

Colbert had 52 tackles last season, and he's followed that with 55 this season.

With his speed, Colbert is great against the pass — he has an interception and four breakups this season.

Chauncey Golston

The junior defensive end has quietly put up some impressive numbers.

He has 8 1/2 tackles for loss, tied with Epenesa for most on the team, and he also has an interception and four pass breakups. He ranks second behind Epenesa in quarterback hurries with seven.

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