Did Iowa football do enough to address linebacker needs in 2018 recruiting class?

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

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.

West High's Dillon Doyle celebrates his touchdown in the final minutes of the Trojans' game against Cedar Rapids Prairie in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.


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.

North Gwinnett High School's Jayden Mcdonald (8) tackles Colquitt High School quarterback Steven Krajewski (8) during a Class AAAAAAA football championship game, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Suwanee, Georgia.

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."

Iowa linebacker target Will Honas didn't commit to the Hawkeyes. It was a big blow, but not one experts think the Hawkeyes can't overcome.

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.

Despite limited snaps in his first three years, Aaron Mends remains an engaged Iowa football teammate. Here, he is shown celebrating on the field after Iowa's 14-13 win over Michigan on Nov. 12.

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?'"

West High's Dillon Doyle celebrates after stopping Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Justin Johnson during their game on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

Iowa's 2018 linebacker class

Scholarship recruits

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

Preferred walk-ons

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 mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.