20 Hawkeyes For 2020: Nick Niemann

John Bohnenkamp

Nick Niemann closed his junior season with a big play.

The Iowa outside linebacker's 25-yard interception return was the final touchdown for the Hawkeyes in their 49-24 win over USC in the Holiday Bowl.

Niemann's tackle numbers went down last season — he had 32 in 2019 after having 43 the year before. But he had eight starts at outside linebacker, and is expected to be a big part of Iowa's defense again this season.

Niemann's best stretch last season came in back-to-back losses against Michigan and Penn State, when he had seven tackles in both games.

Niemann picked up where he left off in a strong 2018 season as a sophomore. His numbers that season could have been even better had he not missed two games because of an injury.

Niemann had a career-high 10 tackles against Wisconsin that season, but then missed the next two games because he was hurt. That slowed his momentum, although he closed the season on a high note — he had four tackles along with a blocked punt in a win at Illinois, and had five tackles in the regular-season finale against Nebraska and the Outback Bowl against Mississippi State.

Niemann is a strong locker-room presence — he was on the team's Leadership Group as a redshirt freshman in 2017, and is part of this year's group. He is also a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

Iowa's defense will have inexperience at several spots this season, but Niemann will be part of a veteran linebacker group that will provide stability in the middle.