IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa has been named to the ninth annual Big Ten Conference preseason honor list. The announcement was made by the league office Thursday in conjunction with the start of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
Ten members were selected by a media panel, with five representatives from the East and West.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection 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.
Epenesa was one of five finalists for the 2018 Polynesian Player of the Year award and a two-time Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of Week for his play in wins against Illinois and Iowa State.
On Monday, he was named to the 2019 Bednarik Award Watch List, which is presented to the nation’s top collegiate defensive player.
The Hawkeyes have had seven players named to the Big Ten Preseason Honors List in the last six seasons. They include Epenesa (2019), Noah Fant (2018), Josey Jewell (2017), C.J. Beathard (2016), Desmond King (2016), Drew Ott (2015), and Brandon Scherff (2014). Fant, Jewell Beathard, King, and Scherff were selected in the NFL Draft after making the list.
The other Big Ten players on the 2019 list include Joe Bachie (Sr., LB, MSU), Kenny Willekes (Sr., DE, MSU), J.K. Dobbins (Jr., RB, OSU), Chase Young (Jr., DE, OSU), and Yetur Gross-Matos (Jr., DE, PSU) in the East Division. The West Division includes Epenesa, Adrian Martinez (So., QB, NEB), Paddy Fisher (Jr., LB, NU), Rondale Moore (So., WR, PUR), and Jonathan Taylor (Jr., RB, WIS).
The Hawkeyes open the 2019 season Aug. 31, hosting Miami, Ohio.