The Iowa Hawkeyes have a wealth of talent at linebacker, as they return their top two tacklers from last season’s defense.
The Returning Starters
Noah Shannon is the prototypical tackle Iowa rolls out to eat up blockers. Though he’s a little lighter than the 300-pounders we normally see occupy the middle of the defensive line, his 6’0” frame allows a little less weight to be carried and still be successful in the spot. He enters his fifth season on campus and started all 14 games last season.
Shannon finished with 47 tackles on the season and finished the season on a personal high note, including 5 tackles in Iowa’s loss to Kentucky and one of two sacks he had on the season. Here he displays impressive burst to get past his guy:
A successful season for Shannon looks very much like what we saw in 2021: stay on the field, occupy blockers to free up Iowa’s cadre of linebackers, and get a sack or two when the opportunity presents itself.
Fellow Illinoisan, Logan Lee was Iowa’s other full-time starter at tackle. The junior accumulated a tackle more than Shannon, at 48, and notched three sacks and five tackles for loss. His 85 number holds over from his brief time on the offensive side of the ball and his build is more defensive end-y than past tackles, at 6’5”, 275 lbs. He’s got pretty long arms and added a defended pass last season.
Like Shannon (and many Hawkeye defensive linemen tbh), Lee feasted on the Wildcat line in Iowa’s final game last year, with five tackles and a sack of his own. Perhaps the most important thing about both guys is their durability (/knocking on wood!), as they held down the fort as primary tackles for all of last year.
Lukas Van Ness warrants mention here, as he was listed at tackle to enter spring ball, but exits as the starting end opposite John Waggoner. He was given the nickname because...well (picture #2):
We’ll talk about both guys more later this week but both do display the ability to slide inside for pass rush situations.
The primary backup
When Yahya Black selected Iowa over hometown Minnesota, it was a huge recruiting win, as 247 considered him a four-star prospect. In the two seasons since, he’s added about 50 pounds, and at 6’5”, he’s the more stereotypical 300-pounder (305 to be exact) we are accustomed to holding down the fort on Iowa’s interior.
It’s his third season on campus, though he retains sophomore eligibility after playing in just four games as a true freshman during 2020. He was a rotational figure last season, notching 18 tackles, and figures to be in a similar role this upcoming season as only Zach Van Valkenberg left Iowa’s line to free up snaps. He’ll be a factor, but he’s probably still a season away from being an impact guy on Iowa’s defensive line.
Iowa’s switched things up on their official roster and notes every guy up front as simply “DL” so I’m doing a bit of a guessing game here, but true freshman Aaron Graves sticks out as a guy who will factor in the upcoming season. He’s already built much like Van Ness at 6’4”, 271 pounds of muscle and could find his way onto the field early as a pass rusher up the middle.
Only redshirt freshman Jeremiah Pittman approaches the 300-pound mark amongst reserves, at 6’3” 297. He was a three-star commit in 2021 with the normal offers: hometown Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa State, Boston College, MAC flotsam.
Players to monitor down the line are guys like Caden Crawford and Jeff Bowie, freshmen who tip 250 on the scales.
Overall, the group is deep, especially considering the positional versatility Iowa’s staff is instilling into their linemen. The staff has done well to build experience last season while the group was relatively young along the line so they can capitalize on it for the 2022 season.