Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell attempts to block a pass during an NCAA football game between Iowa and Illinois in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 45-16. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa football’s mid-season report cards: linebackers


As Iowa heads into its bye week, the Hawkeyes’ regular season is halfway complete. Assistant Sports Editor Pete Ruden hands out mid-season position grades this week.

By Pete Ruden

I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but Josey Jewell is really good at football.

You know who else is good at football? Bo Bower and Ben Niemann.

That core of Iowa’s defense has been instrumental, placing first, second, and third on the team in tackles, respectively.

The linebackers have been a consistent part of the defense for years now, making them leaders on a team that had plenty of inconsistencies prior to the season.

Jewell’s 70 tackles are 26 more than anyone else in the Big Ten defender. That’s insane. He is averaging almost 3 more tackles per game than the next closest in the conference. He also ranks third in the country in total tackles.

After opening the season with a 14-tackle performance in which he recorded 2 sacks in Iowa’s 24-3 win over Wyoming, Jewell had a combined 12 tackles the next two weeks.

The same decrease in production hit Bower and Niemann. After opening the season with 11 tackles against a solid Cowboy offense, Bower had 6 against Iowa State and only 1 against North Texas.

RELATED:  Iowa football’s mid-season report cards: Special teams

Niemann racked up 13 tackles and a forced fumble in the opener, but followed that up with 4 against Iowa State and 3 against the Mean Green.

“It’s over with,” Jewell said on Sept. 12, the Tuesday after the Iowa State game. “You look at it and you try to create something out of it, get some motivation from it. You just try to play better next week by fixing the mistakes.”

The mistakes were fixed, and the game against Penn State was certainly different.

The bounce back against the Nittany Lions was real — Jewell notched 16 tackles, a pick, and 2 pass breakups, while Bower recorded the tackle total from his previous two games, and Niemann got back on the map, taking down the ball carrier six times.

When they are playing to the best of their ability, the linebackers are some of the best in the country, doing everything from making tackles to creating turnovers.

After finishing second in the Big Ten with 124 tackles last year, Jewell’s play has been noticed by nearly everyone this season, earning him two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors through six games as well as plenty of other accolades honoring him on a national level.

While there have been some mistakes and a couple of underwhelming games, their high level of play throughout the rest of the season has overshadowed any mistakes for the most part.

With a lot of questions coming into the season, the linebackers never seemed to make anyone wonder about the production they would produce.

Each of them have different play styles, but they complement each other in a way a lot of linebackers can’t.

They are extremely experienced and have played with each other for a long time, so Iowa is going to miss them when they leave after the season.

There are still six regular-season games left, though, so fans will want to catch them before it is the end of an era on the defensive side of the ball.

RELATED: Iowa football’s mid-season report cards: The offensive line



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