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Iowa Football 2021 Position Previews: Linebacker

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The Hawks return some talent and look to develop depth

Jack Campbell will be a monster this year

Iowa’s defensive coordinators through the years of Bill Brashier to Norm Parker to Phil Parker have developed some pretty salty linebackers. Growing up Larry Station was a heckuva football player. Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge were quite the duo. Josey Jewell (shout out to my hometown guy) is the picture you find in the dictionary if you look up “linebacker”. These were just a few of the terrific backers who have donned the black and gold. If you line up against the Hawks, you know you are going to get hit. This fall expect to see Jack Campbell to have a breakout season and for Seth Benson to show continued improvement. Some younger/less experienced guys are going to show what they have. As Iowa has transitioned to a Cash position, fewer linebackers see the field.

Before we get into this year’s squad, I want to address what the Hawkeyes lost from this position. Nick Niemann collected 77 tackles last year (Iowa’s leading tackler) along with 2.5 tackles for loss (TFL). Niemann (Los Angeles Chargers) joins his brother Ben (Kansas City Chiefs) in the League. The Hawks also had Barrington Wade picked up by the Baltimore Ravens. Wade had 12 tackles but accumulated 1 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 INT’s. If you start for a Phil Parker defense at Iowa, you are prepared for and have a good shot at the NFL.

Iowa’s returning tackle leader is Seth Benson (6’1”, 229 lbs.) Benson had 47 tackles, 3.0 TFL, and 2.0 sacks on the year in 7 games. Look for Benson to lead the Hawks in tackles this year.

Benson finds the football

Jack Campbell (6’5”, 243 lbs.) missed a few games early last year, but after that he made his presence felt. He collected 29 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. He was all over the field. For having such a big frame it is pretty incredible how mobile Campbell is. Campbell could be the next great one for the Hawkeyes. Here was Campbell’s interception last year against the Badgers.

Iowa’s third linebacker (the Leo - kind of a hybrid position) is Jestin Jacobs. Jacobs is a redshirt sophomore, but it feels like he has been in the program a long time. He was a big-time recruit and he now should see the field a pretty good amount. Jacobs has nice size (6’4”, 236 lbs.) and can move. The days of immobile linebackers are gone. If you can’t run, you can’t play.

Jacobs tracking down a Spartan

The Hawkeyes’ next two linebackers on the depth chart are sophomore Jay Higgins (6’2”, 227 lbs.) and redshirt junior Mike Timm (6’0”, 233 lbs). Higgins and Timm have been listed on the depth chart at both middle and weak-side linebacker. Being position-flexible provides depth and it is also an excellent way of getting on the field.

Timm rocks the hair and the face paint!
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I wrote a piece on Jay Higgins last fall. He has all of the intangibles you could ask for in a football player. We will discover that he can flat out play football. He’s a tough dude and he is a tackling machine. And like all Iowa football players, Higgins was a multi-sport athlete in high school. Here’s a video of Higgins hitting a game-winning shot in basketball. Not too bad having a linebacker do that on the hardcourt.

And, oh yeah. Higgins can play football. Here are some highlights from his high school career. He’s number 44. In case you can’t tell the numbers, he’s the one who tackles everyone. My favorite hit takes place in the first few seconds of the clip. Ouch!

Iowa lost a great deal of production from its defensive line last year. Typically having a stout defensive line allows the linebackers to be freed up to make plays. Iowa’s lack of experience up front may require this year’s linebacking corps to get off more blocks. It will be fun to watch to see how much Benson and Campbell have improved and for us to see the future at the linebacker position. As always.... Go Hawks!