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Iowa redshirt freshman linebacker Djimon Colbert is a possible contender for a starting role on defense.

Why Djimon Colbert could enter Iowa’s weakside linebacker competition

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ANSWER: In build and style of play, there are some decent comparisons between redshirt freshman Djimon Colbert and former Iowa linebacker and current Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Both came to Iowa at different positions. Colbert was a 3-star safety from Kansas City, while Hitchens was a 2-star running back from Ohio. Colbert weighs 234 pounds, up from 214 when he arrived at Iowa. Hitchens’ weight jumped from 195 to 235 pounds during his four seasons with the Hawkeyes.

It’s unfair to compare their playing ability considering Colbert has yet to take a snap and Hitchens led the Big Ten in tackles in 2012 and was tied for third in 2013. But there are some similarities. Colbert was active and efficient during the spring scrimmage Friday. He visibly didn’t miss a tackle, he was in position to make plays and he was physical.

There’s plenty of ground for Colbert to make up in the race to start at weakside linebacker. His friend, Aaron Mends, went down with a knee injury that likely will cost him the season. Upperclassmen Kristian Welch and Jack Hockaday appear as the likely contenders to replace Mends, but coach Kirk Ferentz brought up Colbert and fellow freshman Nate Wieland as potential candidates following the scrimmage.

Colbert and Mends were high school teammates at Winnetonka High School in North Kansas City, Mo. Mends was the team’s feature attraction on both sides of the ball, while Colbert started at cornerback as a freshman. Colbert later transferred to Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee, Kan., but he still looks up to Mends.

“It was cool watching [Mends],” Colbert said last summer. “He was an animal my freshman year. He played running back, too. Dudes could not tackle him. He was a big mentor, too. He was always a guy you could look up to. He led by example as much as he talked. I think that was big for me my freshman year at 14 years old. It was cool to see him go to a big school like Iowa.”

Mends said before his injury that he still views himself as a mentor.

“[Colbert] came here as a DB and now he’s playing linebacker,” Mends said. “It was interesting to see him make that transition, but he’s coming along great. Being from the same area and knowing him and being able to just kind of tell him, I’ve been able to use myself as a reference of how you need to be if you want to be successful here. So hopefully he’ll have a great career.”

It’s far too early to compare Colbert with any player who has started games at Iowa. But this is the first time Colbert has entered the varsity discussion. It will be interesting to see how he competes in the next few months.

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