The Hawkeyes have shifted things around a bit on defense. What does that mean for young linebackers looking to make an impact?
Jayden McDonald- RS Freshman
Suwanee, Georgia (North Gwinnett)
6’0”, 235 lbs
2019 Projection: Reserve Linebacker
With Iowa’s shift to more of a 4-2-5 base defense with only two linebackers in the middle, Phil Parker has indicated a desire to get a little more creative with some of his weapons. For senior Amani Jones, that means a shift from middle linebacker a year ago to edge rushing specialist this season.
But Jones wasn’t the only name floated as an edge rusher for this year. On the other end of the age spectrum, redshirt freshman Jayden McDonald was also noted as a potential edge rusher for the future.
McDonald came to Iowa City a year ago as an outside linebacker with the potential to play early. When he arrived on campus, the Hawkeyes were still playing a base 4-3 defense with a true middle linebacker (Jones at the time) and a pair of outside backers with more pass coverage responsibilities. McDonald seemed in a good position to capitalize on that setup with his combination of size and quickness.
However, injury derailed McDonald’s true freshman season and now after a redshirt, he finds himself behind incumbent starters Kristian Welch and Djimon Colbert, as well as some familiar names in Dillon Doyle and Nick Niemann. So how does McDonald bounce back and make the most of his freshman season?
He’s likely to have the biggest impact on special teams. He’s got that combination of size (he was listed at 6’2” in high school but has since been brought down to 6’ even at Iowa) and speed which will come in handy in kickoff on and punt coverage.
But it’s still possible we see McDonald situationally off the edge. He has a quickness that few others in Iowa’s linebacker room possess. While we likely won’t see him utilized in high pressure situations, he certainly could get some run early in the season both coming off the edge and in a more traditional linebacker role if the opportunity is right.
Jayden McDonald has a bright future in Iowa City, even if his opportunities are limited in 2019.