Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the class of 2017 signees. Land of 10 Iowa writers Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse are hard at work visiting the Iowa incoming freshman class to show you more than its 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. We recently talked with 3-star linebacker Nate Wieland, but before we bring you the full profile on the Iowa City star, here is a sneak peek at what you can expect.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As a quarterback, Nate Wieland guided Iowa City High to the Class 4A state quarterfinals last fall and totaled more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
But after gaining a late scholarship from his hometown Iowa Hawkeyes, Wieland won’t play quarterback going forward. It wasn’t even a discussion point throughout the recruiting process. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Wieland will shift to the other side of the ball and play either linebacker or safety. His attitude and stocky frame suggest the move is natural.
“I’ve always been a defensive-minded guy,” Wieland said. “Just having the mindset of running the ball, you’re going to knock someone over every run, you’re going to score the ball on every run. Having that on defense, that you’re going to hit someone on every play. Basically it’s the same mindset.”
There’s precedent at Iowa for players shifting from offensive skill positions in high school and thriving on the defensive side. Iowa all-Big Ten linebackers James Morris (2010-13) and Josey Jewell (2014-present) led their high schools to state titles primarily by running the football. Outside linebacker A.J. Edds (2006-09) came to Iowa as a tight end but switched to outside linebacker out of necessity and flourished.
Wieland fits in that category. His max in the bench press is 360 pounds. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. With his size, he’s already more developed than many of Iowa’s linebackers. While his final position isn’t set, Wieland likely will open his career as Iowa’s outside linebacker, which often covers receivers in the slot like a safety.
“They’ve talked to me about the hybrid, just getting to me to tackle in space,” Wieland said. He said that an assistant coach has told him he’s “already the fastest linebacker. So having to tackle in space, that’s probably where my strength would be at on the team.”
Iowa City High coach Dan Sabers has coached his share of top-flight athletes over the years, and Wieland fits right in. Former Iowa City High quarterback A.J. Derby was the state’s best high school player in 2009 but had a body built for a position change. In a roundabout way, Derby switched to tight end as a college senior at Arkansas. He caught 16 passes and started three games with the Denver Broncos last season.
While Wieland isn’t as tall as Derby, they weighed the same as high school seniors. Plus, Wieland has special skills, Sabers said.
“Just think when he gets some real coaching and so forth,” Sabers said. “I think he’s got the explosiveness, he’s got the toughness. Anybody can watch him run with the football and, say, watch him turn around on the other side and bring that toughness, too. Whether it’s at linebacker or safety — I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him ending up being a safety because he’s an explosive kid.
“I don’t think those guys (Iowa’s previous outside linebackers) are any quicker. Nate’s quicker than A.J. was when they were both here.”
Perhaps Iowa’s best outside linebacker in recent memory was Christian Kirksey (2010-13), who finished fourth in the NFL last year in tackles with the Cleveland Browns. Kirksey weighed 195 pounds as a true freshman before building himself into the position.
“I loved watching him in college,” Wieland said. “I always watch his film and aim my game after his. I’ll be set up pretty well if I do that.”
For the complete Iowa NextGen series, click this link.