IOWA CITY, Iowa — Every position qualifies as a position of need for Iowa in the 2018 recruiting class. It’s that way every year.
But not all needs are created equally. Some positions stand out more than others. For the upcoming recruiting cycle, there is no bigger need than at linebacker. It’s the rare for linebacker to be the position from which a team is losing the most players, but this will be true in Iowa’s case.
2017 senior class breakdown
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The importance of linebacker in 2017 isn’t just because numbers exiting the program will be high — though that’s part of it. Iowa does need to replenish bodies at the position.
But look at the players the Hawkeyes will be losing. Three of the four were starters last year. Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower should start again this year.
Iowa’s linebacking corps will be going through an overhaul prior to the 2018 season. It’s not just that the Hawkeyes need fresh blood at the position; they need new players who will come in and be impact players in the future. Iowa brought in only one linebacker in the 2017 class — Iowa City High’s Nate Wieland — and he might end up at another position.
The Hawkeyes need players who can come in and secure the long-term future of the position. It’s difficult to predict whether any player will be a star, with the possible exception of someone like A.J. Epenesa.
But there can be confidence in numbers. Iowa signed four wide receivers in 2017. You can debate who among Brandon Smith, Max Cooper, Ihman Smith-Marsette or Henry Marchese is the best prospect, but with four coming in the odds are better Iowa will land an impact player. The higher numbers can potentially help overcome issues such as injuries, transfers and players failing to develop.
Right now the Hawkeyes are lacking those numbers at linebacker. That’s where the 2018 class comes in.
Offensive line will be another major focus. Iowa is losing three in 2017 and will lose four more in 2018. The line is in a similar position as linebacker, but Iowa made it a point to address the position this February. When U.S. Army Bowl All-American Tristan Wirfs isn’t dropping weight for wrestling he looks like an ideal fit for the Hawkeyes up front.
Today, linebacker is a greater need than the offensive line. The Hawkeyes already hold one linebacker commitment, from 3-star Wisconsin product Mike Bruner.
It’s a good start, but the Hawkeyes are far from finished at their most important position for 2018.