Linebacker was undoubtedly the biggest position of weakness heading into the 2018 season, but as the season progressed there were quite a few things to like about this unit, and due to injuries we saw a lot of these guys get great experience during the Iowa football team’s 9-4 season.
While we list out three linebackers here because that has historically been the go-to defense for the Hawks, keep in mind that Iowa is warming up to the idea of a modern-day base package of a 4-2-5. That being said, this past year it was a matter of having the right personnel to run it so that remains to be seen what direction the Hawks go this upcoming season.
- Djimon Colbert – Although he didn’t start the season on the first team, he made sure he was going to finish it there. He ended up starting 10 games at weakside linebacker even though he was a defensive back until a few months before the season. Colbert finished the 2018 season with 52 tackles, and he should remain the starter heading into next season.
- Kristian Welch – Welch can play all three linebacker positions, but at 6’3” 238 pounds, he makes the most sense at weakside linebacker where he made three starts this past season at. Much like Barrington Wade at strongside linebacker, four-star recruit Jestin Jacobs will be breathing down Welch’s neck looking for playing time. Fortunately for the senior out of Iola, Wisconsin, he will be somewhat of a super-sub at the linebacker position.
- Amani Jones – Jones gets another crack at taking over the middle linebacker position for good. He started out the season on the first team but quickly lost his spot due to his reckless pursuit of the ball that causes him to be out of position at times. Prior to the season, however, he was earning high praise from the coaching staff. As a senior, I think it’s finally his time to shine.
- Dillon Doyle – Dillon, the son of Chris Doyle, has a shot at being the #2 middle linebacker, and there was a period of time where I thought he may seem some significant playing time last year as a true freshman with all of the injuries building up. Doyle has basically been built for this job since birth.
- Nick Niemann – I cannot overstate how much I love Niemann’s game. His instincts are on point, and he flies to the ball. If he can just manage to stay healthy for the entire season, he could be looking at All-Big Ten honors come seasons end. He’s that good.
- Barrington Wade – For now, it’s Barrington Wade’s job to lose, but the Iowa football team did just bring in Jestin Jacobs, a four-star recruit that Ohio State was fighting badly for. Wade, a redshirt junior got a few snaps this year on the defense but wasn’t able to crack the starting line up despite the injury-ravished linebacker crew.