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Spring football 2018 pt. 2

Hawk Talk
Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell peeks at Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett during the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 upset of the Buckeyes Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (photo by Brian Fleck)

Linebackers and defensive backs

This week I’ll look at the Hawkeye linebackers and defensive backs.
The Hawks not only lost Josey Jewell, a consensus All-American and probably the best linebacker since Larry Station (1982-85), but Bo Bower and Ben Niemann.
The three combined for 122 starts and 872 tackles.
Josey was the Big Ten Linebacker and Defensive Player of the Year, leading the Big Ten in tackles last season.
He was the only sophomore to be named on the Leadership Group and the only sophomore to be named permanent team captain under Kirk Ferentz.
Josey is one of only three Hawkeyes to ever record over 115 tackles in three different seasons.
Larry Station had over 115 tackles in 1983, ‘84 and ‘85. Abdul Hodge had over 115 in 2003, ‘04 and ‘05.
It’s not just Josey’s play on the field, but he was one of the best leaders off the field also.
Bo Bower started all 13 games as a redshirt freshmen and was named Honorable Mention Freshman All-Big Ten.
He played in every game as a sophomore, but backed up Cole Fisher.
Bo started every game the last two seasons after coming to Iowa and a walk-on.
Ben Niemann was a three-year starter and was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten his sophomore and senior seasons.
He was also Academic All-Big Ten his junior year and was on the leadership group his junior and senior year.
The cupboard isn’t bare with five linebackers who have lettered, including three two-year lettermen and one three-year letterman battling for the three positions.
The most important position is middle linebacker and the Hawkeyes have junior Kristian Welch (6-3, 238) and senior Jack Hockaday listed one and two.
Kristian played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2016 after being named all-state first team in Iola, Wis. He played running back on offense and linebacker on defense as he rushed for over 1,000 yards his junior and senior years in high school.
Jack also played as a true freshman and was a linebacker, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in high school, where he was a four-year letterman.
The outside linebacker lists Nick Niemann (6-4, 232) and Barrington Wade (6-1, 233). Both are sophomores.
Nick lettered last season, and was named Academic All-Big Ten after redshirting as a freshman.
Nick, who is a little faster then his brother Ben, played mostly on special teams last season.
Barrington was first team all-state as a senior at Skokie, Ill.
The weak side linebacker has senior Aaron Mends (6-0, 228) and junior Amani Jones (6-0, 238) listed as the top two.
Aaron is a three-year letterman who has played in 33 games the last three years.
Seth Wallace, the linebacker coach, said at his press conference last week that Aaron and Jack Hockaday were stepping up as leaders.
Amani is a two-year letterman that played as a true freshman and won the Team Hustle Award on defense last season.
There is some good talent to work with at the linebacker position. They just need experience and they will have a really good defensive line to play behind.
The Hawkeyes brought four linebackers in with the freshman class.
Look for two or three to play next fall.
The Hawks also have three linebackers coming in as walk-ons.
I’ll talk more about them this summer when I do my preseason look at Iowa football.

Defensive backs

Josh Jackson had one of the greatest breakout seasons for any Hawkeye ever.
How about going from one career start to First Team All-American?
Desmond King had his breakout year as a junior when he was consensus All-American, but he started as a freshman and sophomore.
Josey Jewell was consensus All-American last fall, but he also started four games as a freshman and every game his sophomore and junior seasons.
Josh came into the season with only one start at cornerback and actually was switched to wide receiver as a redshirt freshman in the spring.
What a great move to switch him back to corner in the fall.
All Josh did was tie Nile Kinnick, Lou King and Desmond King for the most interceptions (eight) in a season.
Josh also is the only player in conference history with two scoring interceptions returns in a Big Ten game.
Miles Taylor also needs to be replaced, as he was a three-year starter that was presented the Team Hustle Award on defense.
Miles played as a true freshman and had over 100 tackles in his career.
The depth chart shows Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199) and Manny Rugamba (5-11, 193) listed one and two at the right cornerback.
Both are juniors and both played as true freshman.
Michael started three games last fall and had a career-high eight tackles against Michigan State.
Manny started eight games last year and had a career-high nine tackles against Penn State.
The top two left corners are sophomore Matt Hankins (6-1, 195) and redshirt freshman Trey Creamer (6-0, 190).
Matt played in 12 games last year and started in the bowl game.
Trey was a three-year letterman in Cartersville, Ga., and was first team all-state as a senior.
The top two strong safeties are juniors Amani Hooker (6-0, 210) and John Milani (6-0, 201).
Amani played in nine games last year before being injured.
He opened the Ohio State game with a pick-six to start Iowa on its way to a 55-24 win over the third ranked Buckeyes… the Hawkeyes’ biggest win ever over the Buckeyes.
John is a former West High Trojan who was first team all-state as a senior. He also wrestled four years and ran track for two.
The free safety includes Jake Gervase (6-1, 212) and Geno Stone 5-11, 209).
Jake had nine starts last season and was Academic All-Big Ten for the second straight year.
He received the Team Hustle award on defense as a redshirt sophomore.
Last year, Jake won the Next Man in Award on defense and he also intercepted two passes.
Last season, Iowa led the nation in interceptions with 21, and returned four of them four touchdowns.
Brandon Snyder will also by in the mix.
He is recovering from knee surgery.
Look for two or three incoming freshman to make some starts on special teams.

Linebackers will be the toughest position to replace since Iowa lost all three starters.
The Hawkeyes should have a really good and deep defensive line, which should help the new starters at linebackers.
Phil Parker does a great job developing defensive backs and Iowa should be solid in the backfield.

Next week I’ll look at the offensive line and tight ends.