You’re seldom sure when it comes to awards, subjective things that they are.
But the Big Ten got it right with Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell as its Defensive Player of the Year. There was no other choice, as good as teammate/cornerback Josh Jackson (and conference Defensive Back of the Year) was.
How’s this for a combination: Jewell is third nationally and first among Power Five conference teams in tackles per game with 11.4. He is second to USC’s Uchenna Nwosu in passes defended by a linebacker with 13 (11 breakups, 2 interceptions). Nwosu is an outside linebacker. Jewell is an inside LB.
Those are two totally different categories, and he excelled in both.
When you play for a top-10 team, it’s easy to get honor-squad attention. When your team is 7-5, you can’t be as good as someone else to be Defensive Player of the Year in your league. You have to be better, and Jewell was.
It’s not being newsworthy to state Iowa’s defense was not the defense of a 7-5 team. The Hawkeyes are 22nd nationally in scoring defense, having allowed 19.9 points per game. You’d take that every year, I believe.
This marks the third-straight season Iowa’s defense has been in the top 22 in scoring defense. Last year, it was 13th, allowing 18.8 points per game. in 2015, it was 19th at 20.4 ppg.
Not coincidentally, Jewell was the middle linebacker for all three of those teams. For all the understandable optimism about next year’s Iowa squad with great offensive line potential, two tight ends who have already done big things and an emerging top-tier quarterback in Nate Stanley, remember that the Hawkeyes have three starting linebackers to replace and the guy in the middle is one of the best players they’ve ever had.
Oh by the way, Jackson is tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions with Lukas Denis of Boston College at seven, and Jackson has five more passes defended (25) than any other player in the nation.
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The best recruiting job Iowa’s staff can do between now and the end of winter is to keep Jackson for his senior season.
Jewell, on the other hand, is about to use up his college eligibility. He has gotten all he could out of it. Luther College in Jewell’s Decorah hometown missed out on a good one when Iowa offered him a scholarship.
It was Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan who was sold on Jewell, and who sold head coach Kirk Ferentz on him. Just like Morgan saw something in Chad Greenway, in Brandon Scherff, in several other players who have been vital for the Hawkeyes over the years.
Jewell, and many other Iowa players from this state, Nebraska and South Dakota ... Defensive line coach Morgan saw what others missed. He is 67. Iowa should try to keep convincing him retirement is highly overrated.