116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — You saw the Army All-American Bowl invite in high school, the fact that Ohio State came in late to try and swipe him away with a late scholarship offer.
You thought that meant you’d see Jestin Jacobs sooner than later on the football field for the Iowa Hawkeyes
But there was one thing perhaps you didn’t take into consideration: his size. Being 6-foot-4 worked, but his weight didn’t.
“Our first weigh-in, I weighed 193 pounds,” the sophomore linebacker said. “There’s not many 190-pound linebackers in the Big Ten. When I came in here, I knew it was going to be a process. I knew that I wasn’t just going to come in here and be the top dog.”
Jacobs still isn’t necessarily the top dog of this Hawkeye linebacking corps. That honor probably goes to junior Jack Campbell.
Everyone expects him to be a star.
But Jacobs will contribute a lot this 2021 season. The sophomore from Englewood, Ohio, can play all three spots (middle, weakside and Leo), with Iowa sure to take advantage of his versatility and athleticism.
“During this camp, I’ve been moving around a little bit. It has been exciting,” Jacobs said. “It’s always fun to do new things, try new things out, see what works, see what doesn’t. Every day, I’ve been coming in with new challenges, trying to learn more every day. I’ve got a group full of teammates willing to help me, so it’s fun every day coming out here and attacking the challenge head on.”
Let’s go back to that weight thing for a second. Jacobs is at about 240 pounds now, yet he hasn’t lost his burst, his speed or agility.
That’s a good thing.
“The explosiveness is still there,” said Iowa linebackers coach Seth Wallace. “He’s an 11-foot broad jumper, which is a little bit unheard of at 240 pounds. But just his willingness and his want to go out there and not only understand one position but understand all three linebacker positions …
“From his standpoint, to be able to go out there and work at different positions, with Seth Benson along one side and Jack Campbell along the other side, I think, has been good for everybody. It has improved everyone.”
Jacobs was a three-year starter at running back and linebacker at Northmont High School, located in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. He enrolled for the spring semester at Iowa in 2019 and participated in spring ball that year.
He redshirted his first season, put on pounds and saw playing time in five games in the truncated 2020 season, including a start on the weakside in the opener against Purdue, a move necessitated by injuries at the linebacker position. Jacobs recorded four total tackles.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said in spring ball this year that Jacobs was gaining confidence and beginning to look the part of a player. He showed that in Iowa’s Kids Day scrimmage a couple of weeks ago.
The Hawkeyes begin the 2021 season next Saturday at home against Indiana.
“I feel like I bring a certain level of athleticism sideline to sideline,” Jacobs said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of speed that I can bring onto the field. I try to use my athleticism to my advantage, just get to the ball.”
“I think he’s very much in the mix,” Wallace said. “One thing you’ll see is … you will see Jack Campbell, Seth Benson and Jestin Jacobs play all three of our linebacking positions. That’s not to get you guys talking about a whole bunch of crazy stuff. We’ve been doing that since day one.”
Iowa has Campbell listed as the starter at weakside linebacker, with sophomore Jay Higgins behind him. Junior Benson is the starter in the middle, with junior Mike Timm behind him.
At Leo, junior Dane Belton is listed as your starter, with Jacobs behind him. But Wallace said not to read too much into the depth chart.
“We ran into a buzzsaw a few years ago at Northwestern when Josey Jewell was out of that game,” Wallace said. “I got caught off guard as a coach and put into a very tough spot in that ‘OK, we’ve got to plug somebody else in there at Mike. If I have to put Jestin in there at Mike right now, I’d feel much more comfortable than I did at that point in time throwing Ben Niemann in there (for Jewell), who had been here four years.
“I think what we’ve done with those three (Jacobs, Campbell, Benson) is make sure that if somebody goes down, we’re not necessarily going to the next person on the depth chart.”
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