The countdown to the start of Iowa football continues with only slightly more than a month to go before kickoff! Next up on the list is a player who could very well emerge as the leader of Iowa’s linebacking corps in 2019.
Kristian Welch- Senior
Iola, Wisconsin (Iola-Scandinavia)
6’3”, 239 lbs
2019 Projection: Starting Middle Linebacker
While Welch has spent his entire career in the black and gold on defense, he was star on both sides of the ball as a high schooler in Wisconsin, earning first team all-conference honors as both a running back and a linebacker during his junior and senior years. Iowa’s coaching staff thought highly enough of Welch not to redshirt him his first year on campus, and while he played sparingly in both 2016 and 2017, he did endear himself to Hawkeye fans by snagging an interception during Iowa’s win over Nebraska his sophomore year (7:00 mark in the video below).
Welch’s valuable experience as a special teams contributor helped him win a starting job as a weakside linebacker in 2018 after Iowa said farewell to three starting linebackers from the previous season. Welch’s first start of his career was arguably his best to date, as he compiled eleven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in Iowa’s 33-7 win over Northern Illinois last year.
In total Welch started six games in 2018 (three at weakside linebacker, three at middle linebacker) and totaled 49 tackles on the year, good for sixth on the team. Still, his season was somewhat uneven; all of Welch’s starts came during Iowa’s first seven games, and his playing time took a major dip due to midseason improvements by Djimon Colbert, as well as Amani Hooker’s emergence at the “Cash” position which often limited Iowa to only two linebackers on the field at once. Still, Welch showed himself to be a sure tackler whose strong play in run support often stood out on film.
Welch will enter fall camp as Iowa’s starting middle linebacker and has a chance to make a lasting impact as an Iowa defender in his final season on campus. Welch’s experience, leadership skills, intelligence (he was Academic All-Big Ten last year) and talent as a run defender run should make him an ideal fit as the “quarterback” of Iowa’s defense. Even if Welch is overtaken by one of Iowa’s young up-and-comers at some point next season, he has shown himself capable of being a productive player on the weakside and should remain a major factor in Iowa’s linebacker rotation throughout the year.