Iowa landed a major commitment for its 2022 class on Wednesday, when five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa picked the Hawkeyes over Notre Dame, Ohio State live on CBS Sports HQ. Nwankpa is from Altoona, Iowa, and the state's highest-ranked prospect of the 247Sports era. His decision to stay in-state and play for Iowa instead of leaving for a top program out of state should make him beloved among the Hawkeyes' faithful.
Nwankpa, who turned 18 on Wednesday, is ranked the No. 11 overall prospect in the class by the 247Sports Composite and checks in as the top safety. He's also been a track and field standout at Southeast Polk High School, which is in suburban Des Moines and just over 100 miles away from the Iowa campus. The Hawkeyes' geographic proximity didn't discourage others top programs, though. Ohio State coach Ryan Day made an in-home visit last week.
The 6-foot-2 prospect projects as a potential future first-round NFL Draft selection and compares to Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers, according to 247Sports national recruiting expert Chris Singletary. Here is the full evaluation of Nwankpa from Singletary:
Excellent size to go along with an athletic build and solid wingspan. Able to bend with loose hips that allow him to get in and out of his breaks. Burst and closing speed make for a player who displays great range, whether it's getting off the hash in 2-deep or in the deep third to make plays on the ball or receiver. Possesses game-changing ability to read, react, and close on plays. Shows top-notch tackling and physicality. Coils and strikes the ball-carrier along with doing a good job wrapping. Makes plays on all three levels. Does a good job when blitzing being physical and running through blockers or attacking their edge while making plays on the QB. In the slot or as a nickel backer, can cover and make plays on the ball along with being a factor in the run game. On the back end, scans the field and plays as a ball-hawk whether in the alley or over the top. Very talented player who's going to be factor on defense along with having four-core ability as a special teams player. Multi-year Power Five starter who has the skill set to be an all-conference performer and an early-round draft pick.
A multi-sport athlete, Nwankpa also competes in track and field. Though he projects as a defensive back at the college level, he played in all three phases for Southeast Polk, gaining 792 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in 2020.