Iowa’s defense has already used four different combinations at linebacker this season in just five games. It’s likely to be a fifth in six games this week at Indiana.
For the second time in as many weeks, the Hawkeyes’ next-man-in philosophy will be put to the test.
“If we can get through all this, get guys back and all that and keep moving down the road a little bit in a positive direction, then hopefully maybe we’re developing some depth here, quality depth as we go along, which would be really good,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Jack Hockaday’s knee injury and a first-half suspension to Amani Jones has depleted Iowa’s depth at middle linebacker. Junior Kristian Welch will start in the middle. He says position coach Seth Wallace has prepared all the linebackers for exactly this type of situation.
“We’re working almost all three positions,” Welch said. “It helps with your understanding of the defense, kind of structurally of how we work, and then being able to step in when guys get hurt or when we have some other problems happen.”
You don’t have to look too far for proof that Iowa’s next-man-in mentality actually works. Just look at last week in the win over Minnesota when true freshmen Julius Brents and Riley Moss were effective at cornerback.
“We always talk about next man in, but also too, then we go and back it up with the quality and the amount of work that we put in too,” Iowa junior quarterback Nate Stanley said. Both those guys did a great job of that last week.”
Now it’s Welch and the linebackers turn to repeat the cornerbacks’ performance against a prolific Indiana offense on Saturday.
“It’s challenging, but it’s not something that … the coaches wouldn’t put us in there if they didn’t think we could do that,” Welch said. “We have to have confidence in ourselves as well, so I’m excited to kind of step into the challenge.”
With all the moving parts the defense will try and avoid giving up 28 points or more for the third-straight game. That’s something opponents haven’t achieved against this program since 2001.
For more Hawkeye coverage, follow @AdamJRossow and @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook — and Hawkeye Headquarters on OurQuadCities.com all season. We’re the only Quad-Cities station to follow Iowa at home and on the road, so travel with us to Indiana on Saturday, then Penn State, Purdue and Illinois later in the season.