The 2020 Iowa football season is set to get underway just over three weeks from now. But when it does, Iowa will be without one player -- and a projected starter, no less. As first reported by Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation, Djimon Colbert plans to sit out the 2020 season. Howe's report was later confirmed by The Des Moines Register. Howe noted that, at present, Colbert plans to return to Iowa to play in 2021; he still has two years of eligibility remaining.
Colbert emerged as a starter at the weakside linebacker position as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and started all 13 games in that role last season. In all, Colbert has started 23 games at Iowa, amassing a total of 113 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, five pass break-ups, an interception, and a QB hurry. His best game last season arguably came in the season opener against Miami (OH), when he had eight tackles, including a tackle for loss and a pair of passes broken up.
While Colbert was far from the flashiest player on the Iowa defense, the loss of his experience will hurt, especially for a front-seven that's already down A.J. Epenesa, Kristian Welch, Cedrick Lattimore, and Brady Reiff. There are going to be a lot of new faces getting thrust into the spotlight on Iowa's defense along the line and in the linebacker positions. Nick Niemann is easily Iowa's most experienced linebacker in the absence of Colbert, and will assume one of the starting LB roles this fall -- perhaps MLB, where he performed very well in the Holiday Bowl against USC. The only other Iowa linebacker with starting experience is Barrington Wade, who has a grand total of... one start.
Iowa doesn't have much returning experience at the linebacker position, but hopefully they do have talent, even if that talent lacks polish or playing time thus far. Seth Benson and Jack Campbell played sparingly last year and mostly on special teams, but could be in linef or much bigger roles this year. Jestin Jacobs is a player Iowa fans have been wanting to see more of since he arrived on campus; he was one of the most highly touted members of Iowa's 2019 recruiting class, a 4* prospect who chose Iowa over offers from Michigan State, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Missouri, Pitt, Nebraska, and -- oh yeah -- Ohio State. He redshirted in 2019, but it would be very exciting to see what he's able to do.
Other names to consider: Logan Klemp and Nick Anderson. Klemp is a redshirt sophomore, though he's yet to play at Iowa; he redshirted in 2018 and didn't see the field in 2019. Still, this is his third year in the program and opportunity is certainly there for the taking. Anderson transferred to Iowa from Iowa Western and sat out the 2018 season. He saw action in just one game in 2019, against Rutgers, though he recorded no stats. Like Klemp, he's in his third year at Iowa; he's also a senior, so if it's going to happen, it's going to have to happen now. And finally, keep an eye on true freshman Jay Higgins; he was a tackling machine in high school and while true freshmen don't always crack the two-deeps at linebacker, this is a weird year and the old rules may not apply.
We wish Colbert the best and look forward to seeing him suit up in black and gold again in 2021.