The number 44 has been good to Iowa linebackers in the past. When will the next one get his chance to be a contributor?
Seth Benson – RS Freshman
Sioux Falls, SD (Washington)
6’0”, 227 lbs
2019 Projection: Reserve LB
Phil Parker has officially shifted his base defense away from the 4-3 bread and butter Iowa fans have gotten to know and (mostly) love to more of a 4-2-5 base look with that fifth defensive back being some form of hybrid LB/DB. That has meant a diminishing need for linebackers in the Hawkeye defense. But linebackers are notoriously athletic players who are invaluable in special teams and have talents that can be well utilized at a couple of other positions with some tweaks.
That doesn’t mean the position is being eliminated altogether, however. We’ll still see four true linebackers on the depth chart each week this season and Iowa is going to keep a dozen or so on the roster for the foreseeable future.
So what does all that mean for redshirt freshman linebacker Seth Benson? That patience will be a virtue.
After being very lightly recruited out of high school in South Dakota, despite racking up an astonishing 110 tackles as a senior and being named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Benson burst onto the scene last August at Iowa’s annual Kid’s Day open practice. It was a complete surprise, but the youngster impressed.
However, with Amani Hooker stealing a linebacker spot and veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, it was difficult for Benson to earn minutes once the season began. That’s not to say he didn’t contribute. Benson was one of 12 true freshmen to see the field last year, in part due to the new NCAA rule allowing players to redshirt provided they play in 4 or fewer games. Benson saw action in three games, though he didn’t accumulate any statistics.
Turning to 2019, it’s likely to be much of the same for Benson as he enters his redshirt freshman season. He comes in with 17 extra pounds vs. a year ago, but he’s still a bit on the slender side for an Iowa linebacker.
It’s likely he’ll see plenty of action on special teams given his solid size and good speed and athleticism. He’s much more likely to compete for time at linebacker entering his sophomore year after the Hawkeyes see Amani Jones and Kristian Welch graduate.
He would need to fight through entrenched starter Djimon Colbert and a pair of guys already listed on the depth chart in Nick Neimann and Barrington Wade, but he’s still a good candidate to make the two deeps. He’s most likely to make a real impact on the Iowa defense as a redshirt junior.
Such is life on the Iowa defense. Until then, look for Benson to continue working under Doyle to get closer to 235 and contribute on special teams.