Jack Campbell had a breakout season in 2020.
The Iowa junior missed the first three games of the shortened season because of illness, but closed the season with 29 tackles, including 21 solos. With one interception, a sack, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups, Campbell proved to be a playmaker in a position group that has always featured such players in the past.
It’s why Campbell has become the anchor of the middle of Iowa’s defense. Campbell started fall camp as No. 1 on the depth chart at weak-side linebacker, but is now at No. 1 at the middle linebacker spot on the depth chart for next Saturday’s opener against Indiana.
Linebacker is a position group of depth for the Hawkeyes, and this group is going to be together for a while. There are no seniors, and the group also has seven true freshmen.
Seth Benson, a junior, is No. 1 at the weakside linebacker spot. Dane Belton, also a junior, is No. 1 on the Cash/LEO spot.
Behind Campbell is sophomore Jay Higgins. Behind Benson is sophomore Kyler Fisher. Behind Belton is sophomore Jestin Jacobs.
Benson, who was No. 1 at middle linebacker after spring practice, was another impact player last season. He had 47 tackles in seven starts, including 26 solos. Benson had three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Benson had a career-high 13 tackles in Iowa’s 21-20 loss to Northwestern on Oct. 31. Ten of those were solos, and he also had two quarterback hurries in the game.
Belton has become the perfect fit in the Cash. He had 33 tackles in eight games last season as a sophomore after a 33-tackle season as a true freshman in 2019.
Belton has been able to alternate between strong safety and the Cash, and that kind of versatility has made him valuable for the Hawkeyes.
Jacobs, who redshirted in 2019, started last season’s opener against Purdue before moving back into a reserve role. He had four tackles in five games last season.
Higgins was one of eight true freshmen to play for the Hawkeyes last season. He had two tackles, playing mostly on special teams, and he’ll be able to learn plenty playing behind Campbell this season.
Fisher joined the Hawkeyes as a walk-on defensive back in 2019, redshirting his first season. He had two tackles last season, playing mostly on special teams, but has found a role this season behind Benson.