By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa enters the 2020 season with question marks at two of the three linebacker positions after the departures of Dillon Doyle and Djimon Colbert, both of whom were expected to start or play major roles on Iowa’s defense this season.
Senior linebacker Nick Niemann, who has 37 games and 13 starts under his belt, aims to step into a leadership role this season.
“Obviously, coming into the season, we didn’t expect two guys to not be here that have played a significant role on defense,” Niemann said during Iowa’s virtual media day Wednesday. “Obviously, being a senior, whether or not he was here or not (being a leader) was going to be one of my goals.”
Colbert, a junior from Shawnee Mission, Kan., elected to opt out of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doyle left the program in June days before his father, former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, reached separation agreement with Iowa after several former players came forward with accusations of racial inequity within the program that mostly centered around Chris Doyle.
Now, sophomore Jack Campbell and senior Barrington Wade are two players expected to help fill the void left by attrition.
6-foot-4, 235-pound redshirt freshman Jestin Jacobs also was named Wednesday as someone who may see plenty of playing time this fall.
“It’s not really my place to speak on it,” Wade said. “But (Colbert) was definitely a great asset for us. But it’s always the next man up.”
While it may seem like it, Iowa’s linebacker corps doesn’t necessarily have a shortage of experience after Niemann.
Campbell, a native of Cedar Falls, and Wade, a native of Skokie, Ill., have 36 games played between the two of them a.
The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Campbell played in 11 games last season as a true freshman, which he described as valuable experience heading into his sophomore campaign.
“The biggest positives I took out of last year were mostly just seeing what I’m capable of,” Campbell said. “But at the same time the mental aspect of just learning so much more about football than just run to the ball, like the X’s and O’s.”
Iowa begins its shortened eight game season Oct. 24 against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz and several members of the Iowa coaching staff will speak to the media in person Thursday.
Here are some notable quotes and information from Wednesday’s media availability.
Position, Name, Year, Height, Weight, Hometown, Notables
DL Daviyon Nixon, Jr., 6-3, 305, Kenosha, Wis., Played in all 13 games in 2019 with one start/Preseason fourth-team All-Big Ten by Athlon
What he wants to improve on this season – “My biggest lesson learned from last season is to keep my pads low. Especially playing against Iowa State and Michigan, a lot of times on film I see myself getting thrown five yards off the play, and that’s not what I wanted to do, especially trying to stop the run. This year, that’s been my biggest concern. Everyone knows I can pass rush, but my job is to get us to those third downs and force the ball to be thrown so we can get an opportunity to rush the passer.”
DB Jack Koerner, Jr., 6-0, 205, Des Moines, Iowa, Preseason third-team All-Big Ten by Athlon/11 starts at free safety in 2019 with 82 tackles, one interception and five pass break-ups
On how he feels after suffering injuries during a boating accident over the summer that caused one of his friends to have their leg amputated – “That was a pretty scary incident in the summer, obviously. But I was lucky enough to not have too many serious injuries and just kind of a building back strength thing for me, personally. I’ve been able to fully recover from that and I’m ready to put that behind me and look forward to the season.”
DL Austin Schulte, Sr., 6-4, 283, Pella, Iowa, Played in all 13 games in 2019
On his development as a fifth year senior – “There’s always things you can improve on. Especially in the sport of football, you’re never going to play a perfect game. Watching films from the last couple years over the offseason, definitely noticed things that I need to work on and improve on. Those are things that you can improve on while watching yourself, but also watching other guys on the field.”
DB Dane Belton, So., 6-1, 205, Tampa, Fla., Played in eight games with four starts as true freshman in 2019/Recorded 33 tackles
On being part of the Multicultural Focus Group – “I just saw an opportunity to voice my opinion and the ability to take other people’s opinions to a higher platform. I would say, personally, I’m not a super outspoken person, but I talk about things I feel passionate about and things I truly believe in, and I felt like (the group) was an opportunity for me to do just that.”
DB Matt Hankins, Sr., 6-0, 180, Lewisville, Texas, Preseason fourth-team All-Big Ten by Athlon/10 starts, 58 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups in 2019
On progress made within the program since racial bias allegations surfaced in June – “Most definitely I have (seen progress). I think the team has as well. In the best ways possible, really.”
On wanting to kneel for the national anthem – “I don’t think it’s a protest. But most definitely we’ve been heard and we’ve had good discussions about it.”
DL Chauncey Golston, Sr., 6-5, 270, Detroit, Mich., Bronco Nagurski Award preseason watch list/Lott IMPACT Award preseason watch list/Preseason second-team All-Big Ten by Athlon
On maintaining intensity with no fans in attendance – “If you need someone to give you juice, then you’re playing the wrong game. You’re already going to have the juice if you’re already out there and ready to go.”
On whether or not he considered opting out of the season – “No. Nope. Not one ounce of doubt. I love this game. I couldn’t imagine not playing it.”