Iowa football is back. The Hawkeyes are in camp, and the season is approaching. Land of 10 is here to keep you informed and get you prepared for the season. In August, we are breaking down position groups. Here are the linebackers.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Land of 10 will project Iowa’s depth chart for each position group before the Hawkeyes take the field Sept. 2 against Wyoming. Here’s a look at how the linebacking corps stacks up:
MLB — 1. Josey Jewell, Sr., 6-2, 236; 2. Kristian Welch, So., 6-3, 232; 3. Jack Hockaday, Jr., 6-1, 232
WLB — 1. Bo Bower, Sr., 6-1, 235; 2. Amani Jones, So., 6-0, 235; 3. Aaron Mends, Jr., 6-0, 227
OLB — 1. Ben Niemann, Sr., 6-3, 233; 2. Kevin Ward, Sr., 6-1, 217; 3. Barrington Wade, r-Fr., 6-1, 223
OTHERS IN THE MIX — MLB Kyle Taylor, r-Fr., 6-0, 225; WLB Djimon Colbert, Fr., 6-1, 215; OLB Nick Niemann, r-Fr., 6-4, 225
OTHERS — Nate Wieland, Fr., 6-1, 220; Keegan Glaus, Fr., 6-0, 215; Ben Campos, Fr., 6-1, 213; Joe Ludwig, Fr., 6-2, 215; Jacob Sobotka, Jr., 6-3, 235
The King: Josey Jewell
Iowa has showcased terrific linebackers in coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure and Jewell ranks among the best. He’s a four-year starter and the unquestioned leader of the defense. He earned that role as a sophomore in 2015 with his tenacity, output and intangibles.
Jewell was a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation’s top linebacker. He ranked second last year in Big Ten stops with 124. He’s a four-time member of the Leadership Group, became the first sophomore to earn permanent team captain status and was the first player under Ferentz to earn two trips to Chicago for Big Ten media days.
Career-wise, Jewell has 301 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 15 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. His statistics fail to reflect the force with which he hits or his impact on Iowa’s defense.
The Wildcard: Kristian Welch
Welch looked like a future candidate on the outside after backing up Ben Niemann as a freshman last year. Welch’s tall (6-foot-3) frame appeared consistent with former outside linebacker A.J. Edds, who was one of the best at the position in the Ferentz era.
But this spring, Welch moved inside and worked at both weak side and middle. He has backed up Jewell in the middle for most of camp. Perhaps that’s because of an injury to reserve middle linebacker Jack Hockaday. But with his versatility, Welch has pushed himself into contention for a potential 2018 starting role at multiple positions.
The Newcomer: Djimon Colbert
The 6-1 Colbert appeared like a bulked-up safety before fall camp with a powerful 215-pound frame. So Ferentz shifted Colbert, a freshman, from safety to weak side linebacker, where he has worked this camp as a third-teamer. It’s likely Colbert will gain weight this offseason and challenge for playing time next fall.
“We are probably going to keep Colbert there,” Ferentz said. “I think he was at 213 or 214, and he was sucking it in to try and stay down. I think that’s probably a more natural fit, and he is enthused about that opportunity.”