We probably should have realized it last year, when injuries and attrition devastated the linebacking corps to the point that a preseason 4th-string MLB (James Morris) ended up starting most of the year and we ended up playing a linebacking corps that didn't include a single week one starter (Tyler Nielsen, Jeff Tarpinian, or Jeremiha Hunter), but Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God (AIRBHG), our least-favorite deity with an interest in Iowa football, clearly has a sibling: Angry Iowa Linebacker Hating God (AILBHG). He's been quietly causing mischief this year: taking Shane DiBona and Jim Poggi out of the depth chart in the off-season (via rhabdo and other injuries), ending Dakota Getz's season with an ACL injury last week, hobbling Tyler Nielsen with a gimpy ankle (against Iowa State and Pitt), and now causing Bruce Davis to abruptly leave the team.
University of Iowa linebacker Bruce Davis has left the Hawkeye football team. Coach Kirk Ferentz made the announcement Monday. The senior from Cleveland, Ohio (Glenville HS) will graduate in December.
"Bruce Davis has decided to leave the football team, citing personal reasons for his decision," said Ferentz. "Bruce was a part of three very special football seasons. The coaching staff and I appreciate Bruce’s contributions over the past four-and-a-half years and wish him success in finishing his degree in December and beyond."
Well, shit. Davis wasn't a starter, but he provided valuable, experienced depth to the linebacker corps (something in short supply when you realize that we essentially roll out with three redshirt freshmen/sophomores and the senior Nielsen) and was a regular special teams player and a fixture on the coverage teams. (Given the poor performance of those units, a snarky observer might suggest that this is an "addition by subtraction" move, but I don't think that's fair or correct -- Davis seemed to be one of the few reliably good special teams guys we've had over the past few years.)
He was buried behind Mike Klinkenborg, Jacody Coleman, and Pat Angerer at MLB for the early part of his Iowa career, then lost out to Jeff Tarpinian for the starting gig last year. He likely would have still had a chance to start at MLB last year (considering Tarp's frequent injury absences), but had his ACL go splodey during Iowa's nightmarish game with Arizona. He returned to special teams action this year, recording four tackles in Iowa's first three games. His absence means someone else will have to fill in on special teams (a sobering prospect, given that unit's struggles) and as a back-up MLB (former walk-on Terrence Pryor worked at MLB during some of the open practices this fall, but you might also see Kirksey and Hitchens shuffle positions in order to get the best three LB on the field). "Next man in" is always the mantra, but Iowa's LB depth appears quite precarious; if you have any good luck totems, please feel free to send them James Morris' way.
As for why Davis is leaving... we don't know and we may never know. The timing of his decision is very odd (he was even listed in the two-deeps for Louisiana Monroe that came out this morning), but it would be beyond crass to speculate on his motives for leaving. It would seem highly strange if playing time had suddenly become an issue (he's been behind Morris for a good while now and it's not as if Morris' play has been poor enough to warrant his replacement), so chances are his motivation truly is the "personal reasons" cited in the release, which could, literally, mean just about anything. Davis gave over four years to the Iowa program, was never involved in an off-field incident, and always seemed to give his all on the field, so it seems harsh to drag him through the mud now, even if his timing is (admittedly) very, very strange.