IOWA CITY, Iowa — No Iowa football position group is more depleted — or boasts more opportunity — than at linebacker.
Three seniors with a combined 122 starts exit the program. Not one linebacker on the roster has started a game, which means Iowa’s newcomers have a chance to contribute right away.
The Hawkeyes signed four linebackers who played varying levels of competition, both within the state and nationally. Dillon Doyle (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) played in Iowa’s largest class at Iowa City West and already has the size and frame to see the field this fall. Same with new signee Jayden McDonald (6-1, 220), who won a state title with North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.
Seth Benson (6-1, 205) was South Dakota’s Gatorade Player of the Year after a stellar career at Sioux Falls Washington. Logan Klemp (6-3, 210) was a small-school powerhouse for South Hamilton (Iowa) and was named the Class 1A state player of the year. Both will have their opportunity to compete as well.
With the graduations of Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann, Bo Bower and key reserve Kevin Ward, not only will the incoming linebackers have an the potential for game action this fall; the coaches seem to expect it.
“We think they’re good players, good prospects,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday. “And I think it’s fair to say that a couple of guys will be involved next year on special teams. We’ll get them on the field and redshirt another guy or two. We have an open mind. It’s a position where there’s as much opportunity there for any of those players for a spot on our team.”
Doyle, the son of Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle, already has enrolled and participating in offseason workouts. Doyle helped Iowa City West reach the Class 4A state title game and was a member of the All-Iowa Elite team. He had 73 tackles, including 12 for loss, as a senior.
McDonald helped his team win its first state title. He record 100 tackles, including 12 for loss, and also 12 sacks. He had 4 interceptions and scored a school-record 4 defensive touchdowns. McDonald originally was committed to Rutgers then picked Iowa over Ole Miss, Kansas State and Purdue.
Benson was a four-year starter at one of South Dakota’s largest high schools and ranks fourth in school history with 236 tackles. He helped his squad win three state titles and was 35-1 in his final three seasons.
Klemp was an all-everything player at South Hamilton. He owns the school’s rushing record with 294 yards in a game. Last season he had 82.5 total tackles, including 12 for loss, and 6 sacks.
All four were academically prolific and Iowa coaching staff likes their intangibles. Their talent will dictate whether they play this fall.
“If a kid’s ready to contribute, it would be foolish to save that kid’s redshirt because we need as much help as we can get in those spots,” said Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell. “One thing we always talk about defensively, we talk about the tread on the tire. As linebackers and as defensive backs, not only are they playing 60-70 snaps a game on defense, they’re also throwing in another 30 snaps on special teams. How much tread is left on the tire in November?
“You need these guys right here to come in and supplement some of those snaps. If a kid’s physically ready to go, we’re not going to hold back.”