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Iowa Football Class of 2018 Recruiting Positional Overview: Linebackers

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The Hawkeyes will need to replace a trio of starting linebackers in the 2018 season. Who are they after on the recruiting trail to fill the shoes of Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower?

Iowa State v Iowa
Jack Hockaday is patiently waiting behind a group of senior linebackers. Who is waiting to replace him?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

With no sport truly in-season, the summer is recruiting season. So, as we get into the doldrums of summer, we’re stepping up our recruiting coverage a bit. We’ll be taking a quick look at the situation at each position group for the Hawkeyes. We’ll look at level of need, top targets and Iowa’s chances of landing a commitment in each group.

As a reminder, we are tackling one position group each week this summer. We’re nearing the end. So far, we’ve taken a look at the defensive backs, the offensive line, the tight ends, wide receivers, running back recruits and the quarterback prospects. Next week, we’ll continue exploring the defense as we tackle defensive line recruiting. As we progress throughout the summer, these targets will change as guys commit and new offers are extended. Be sure to check in on the home page for all the updates.

Depth Chart

Defensive Line Scholarship Distribution Chart

POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total
POS SR JR SO RS FR Incoming FR Total
DE Parker Hesse; Matt Nelson Anthony Nelson Chauncey Golston; Romeo McKnight; Austin Schulte; Brandon Simon Levi Duwa; AJ Epenesa 9
DT Nathan Bazata Garrett Jansen; Cedric Lattimore; Jacob Newborg; Brady Reiff 5

The Situation

2018 could prove an interesting year for the linebacking group at Iowa. Following 2017, the Hawkeyes lose all three starters, including their all-world man in the middle in Josey Jewell. There is promising talent behind the three starters, but that senior group has been so solid there isn’t a ton of experience behind them.

The Hawkeyes released a pre-camp depth chart earlier this week that showed Jack Hockaday as the heir-apparent to Jewell in the middle. He’ll be a senior in 2018. Fellow senior Aaron Mends didn’t crack the two-deeps, which is a little disappointing. But it also means some younger guys may get a little experience, particularly from Kristian Welch and Amani Jones, who will be juniors in 2018.

Behind them is another trio of backers who will be sophomores in 2018. It’s another group with some talent that will likely have in impact over the next few years. There’s also a local product in Nate Weiland who comes in with the class of 2017.

Commitments

Class of 2018 Defensive Line Commits

Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Noah Shannon DT Oswego, IL 6'2" 285
Tyler Linderbaum DT Solon, IA 6'2" 255

Offers

Offers to Uncommitted DL in Class of 2018

Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
Michael Thompson DT 6'4" 273 Saint Louis, MO
Trevor Trout DT 6'3" 295 St. Louis, MO
Thomas Booker DT 6'4" 280 Baltimore, MD
Aeneas Hawkins DT 6'3" 260 Cincinnati, OH
Ronnie Perkins SDE 6'4" 260 St. Louis, MO
John Waggoner SDE 6'5" 245 West Des Moines, IA
Malcolm Lamar SDE 6'5" 256 Seffner, FL
Daniel Carson SDE 6'5" 270 Independence, MO

Note: this list only includes players not currently committed to other schools. There are several guys Iowa has offered, but who have already announced a commitment elsewhere. Expect the number of offers to continue growing as the evaluation process moves forward. The summer is a busy time for offers as Iowa likes to get kids on campus for evaluations in camp. It’s also possible some of the kids who committed elsewhere will de-commit and be back on the market for the Hawkeyes.

Analysis

With the departure of all three starters following this year, the Hawkeyes will need to do some work to replace them. However, they have some depth already on the roster so the situation isn’t exactly dire. I’d expect them to add 2-3 linebackers in the class of 2018.

They’re already on their way with local City High product (and son of strength coach Chris Doyle) Dillon Doyle on board. Heading into his senior year, Doyle is listed at 6’3” and 215 lbs, which is a really nice frame for an outside linebacker. Assume he’ll take a redshirt to let his, uh, dad shape him into yet another in a long line of Iowa linebackers poised for the NFL.

Beyond Doyle, their next best bet, in my view, to add a LB in this class is actually from a guy we’ve touched on previously and who isn’t listed above as having an offer. Paul Moala is listed by many services as a safety, but with his size at 6’ and over 200 lbs he projects just fine as a linebacker as well. His video shows good ball skills as Moala serves as a return man for his Penn High School in Mishawaka, Indiana (where he’s been a high school teammate of current Hawkeye commit Anthony Torres, who will be transferring to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season).

As he lines up at safety in high school, most of his footage is what you would expect out of a defensive back: he’s picking off passes and making plays when he has the ball in his hands. But he also brings the wood. I could see him at either safety or linebacker at the next level and I think given the defensive back situation, Iowa would gladly take him and let him start where he feels most comfortable.

Another name also not included above, is Detroit running back Elijah Collins. He’s high school teammates with Carlos Vettorello, an offensive linemen the Hawkeyes are in on, as well as incoming Wisconsin defensive back Scott Nelson, who Iowa was in on until the very end last season.

His highlights are almost exclusively on the offensive side of the ball, but what defensive highlights we do see show why Iowa likes him at linebacker. He’s got a similar build to Moala at 6’ 195 lbs and he has a nose for reading the play getting into the backfield. He’s athletic and given his versatility I think would make a solid addition to the class of 2018.

Beyond those two, the list included above is a mix of long shots and guys we haven’t heard much about. Cam McGrone is an absolute animal and would be a great get. He’s part of that massive St. Louis contingent Iowa got in on early, but has seemed to lose steam with. McGrone has blown up and it doesn’t sound like Iowa is in the mix at this point.

Brian Asamoah is a really good looking prospect with an impressive offer sheet, but things seem to have been trending toward Pitt and I don’t know how involved Iowa is at this point. It’s a similar story with virtually every other name on the list. There was an interest by both parties, an offer and now interest seems to have faded as the offer list has grown. Part of that is likely due to most of them being from Ohio or Florida.

One thing to note is Iowa previously had a commitment from another linebacker in Wisconsin native Mike Bruner. As you may recall, Bruner was the first commitment in the class of 2018 for Iowa, but he then de-committed. It sounds like perhaps the two sides have since cooled on each other and it’s unlikely he will end up in the black and gold.

At this point, I would expect the Hawkeyes to go through the fall evaluation period watching how senior seasons progress before they extend more offers. I think they sit pretty well with Moala, who holds a Notre Dame offer, but may not be in a position to commit. I think they also have a decent shot at Collins. If they don’t get both I would think they probably start making offers come this winter to fill out the class.


As always, just a reminder that recruiting is truly a dynamic world. Things change in the blink of an eye. A commitment by one prospect could lead to others following so to not have their spot taken. Conversely, recruits committing elsewhere may open things up and result in a new offer or two. We’ll continue to keep you updated as things evolve. Expect the momentum to continue with some of the names mentioned above making their decisions prior to the start of the high school season. Tune in to the home page for all the updates.