Hawkeyes LB recruit Dillon Doyle talks his varied role vs. Prairie's funky offense.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football's 2018 class is dotted with impressive gets.
Dallas Craddieth, for instance, could make an immediate impact in the secondary.
Or you could look at defensive end John Waggoner, a must-have after Iowa swung and missed on the state’s top prospect last winter.
In the immediate future, though, this class will be judged on how it addressed Iowa’s biggest need: Linebackers.
After losing the three-headed monster of Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower, Iowa added four new linebackers through the 2018 class — all freshmen.
Iowa City West product Dillon Doyle, son of strength coach Chris Doyle, is already on campus after early-enrolling. South Dakota’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Seth Benson, signed in December. And on Wednesday, in-state recruit Logan Klemp and Georgia product Jayden McDonald will sign.
McDonald was Iowa’s top 2018 priority for the Feb. 7 signing period. It beat out Ole Miss, Purdue and Kansas State during a month-long courtship for McDonald, and his commitment was a big win for the Hawkeyes.
It essentially evened out the loss of Ben Van Sumeren, a similarly rated linebacker who flipped from Iowa to Michigan before the early signing period.
And it almost numbed the pain of losing on Butler Community College’s Will Honas, the best junior college linebacker prospect in the country. He was an Iowa lean before Scott Frost swooped in and brought him to Nebraska.
Iowa also added several preferred walk-on linebackers, including Iowa Western transfers Colton Dinsdale and Nick Anderson.
So, here’s the question: With two in-demand recruits and two under-the-radar finds, did Iowa do enough to address its linebacker needs?
"Obviously, I don’t think there is the instant impact that they wanted," said Allen Trieu, 247Sports' head of Midwest recruiting. "If you’d gotten a junior college guy — if you’d gotten Will Honas — he’d instantly be the most likely guy in the class to see the field next year.
"But I think if you go back through Iowa’s linebacker recruiting, there’s probably some of those years where you would have looked at it and said, 'Well they don't have enough here,' or 'Well they took a swing on a guy named Josey Jewell late when nobody knew who he was.' They’ve just done such a good job developing that position and finding guys who came over from other positions, or were from very small, unknown high schools, that I have a hard time thinking that they won’t be OK there."
Josh Helmholdt, Rivals' head of Midwest recruiting, shard a similar sentiment — that, on paper, this isn’t a linebacker class that makes you forget about losing Jewell, Niemann and Bower.
"It’s interesting with Iowa," Helmholdt said. "You’ve got a guy like Josey Jewell, who was a two-star and now is going to go play in the NFL. And they’ve done that. So I don't think they're afraid to go after the guy that nobody else wants. They have confidence in their ability to develop those guys. And, certainly, that’s what you're looking at in this 2018 class at linebacker. They got a late kid with Logan Klemp. He’s out of Jewell, Iowa, so maybe they're channeling that Josey Jewell mojo and trying to get another four years like that."
But having a true freshman play linebacker in the Big Ten is asking a lot. So next season, Iowa will likely need to turn to players already on the roster to replace the Hawkeyes' departing linebacker talent.
The next-in-line guys are rising junior Kristian Welch; junior Amani Jones; senior Jack Hockaday; senior Aaron Mends; and sophomore Nick Niemann. Those five amassed 22 tackles last season, mostly on special teams.
The three starters will likely come from that group of five. How effective they'll be is mostly unknown at this point, because with Jewell, Niemann and Bower, there were few snaps to go around.
If you're looking for immediate impact from the 2018 signing class, the best candidate would be Doyle. He’s already on campus and has all of spring to get a head start. Plus, growing up as Chris Doyle’s son, he's got a head start on strength training, too.
"He’s a legit kid. He’s a Big Ten-style linebacker," Helmholdt said. "It wouldn't surprise me if he plays on Sundays, just because there’s those other things — he knows the program, he’s going to walk in from Day 1 and get what they're trying to do there. There’s a really strong opportunity for him to be the Josey Jewell four years down the road that everybody’s talking about, 'How did other teams miss on him?'"
Iowa's 2018 linebacker class
Jayden McDonald (6-2, 220), Suwanee, Georgia
Dillon Doyle (6-3, 215), Iowa City, Iowa
Seth Benson (6-1, 210), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Logan Klemp (6-3, 210), Jewell, Iowa
Colton Dinsdale (6-0, 210), Reinbeck, Iowa — Iowa Western
Nick Anderson (6-3, 230), Waukee, Iowa — Iowa Western
Mitchell Riggs (6-2, 215), West Des Moines, Iowa
Joe Evans (6-3, 210), Ames, Iowa
Mike Timm (6-1, 220), Wales, Wisconsin
John Carlson (6-4, 190), Bondurant, Iowa
Jake Morrison (6-3, 215), Waukee, Iowa
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.