IOWA CITY — He played on special teams in four games last season and all seven this season. He got in quite a bit of time at middle linebacker last week against Penn State.
But getting his first start as an Iowa Hawkeye was a whole different deal Saturday for Dillon Doyle.
“Crossing the white line was pretty cool,” Doyle said, after Iowa’s 26-20 win over Purdue at Kinnick Stadium. “I was a little nervous during the week when I was thinking about it. But we have those guys on the back end (safety) like Geno (Stone) and Jack (Koerner), who have done a fantastic job this year. Just knowing I have other guys on the defense like them that I can trust and who will put me in the right place is something that gave me confidence. Preparation gives confidence, and I thought we did a good job with that this week.”
Doyle is the youngest son of longtime Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He moved into the starting lineup at middle linebacker because of an injury to Kristian Welch in last week’s game against Penn State.
Doyle and true freshman Jack Campbell of Cedar Falls split time here. Doyle had one tackle and Campbell four.
They seemed to do just fine.
“Every game, we have to be up and ready,” Doyle said. ”Last week, I got that opportunity. Jack stepped in today. I thought we did pretty well.”
True freshman Dane Belton played a ton at nickel back Saturday against Purdue’s spread offense, acquitting himself nicely with six tackles in just his second collegiate game. Redshirt freshman defensive end John Waggoner also made an impact with a second-quarter sack of Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer.
That was his first career tackle.
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“We had, I think, four freshmen playing pretty prominent roles defensively,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Experience, you can’t really hand that to anybody.”
Doyle said he learned Friday that Welch was a no-go, and that he was starting. He said the senior did a good job of helping him and Campbell prepare during the week.
“Jack’s just an awesome kid,” he said. “He works so hard, has that walk-on mentality. Just bring it every day and go to work ... I was really proud of the way he stepped up. We tried to prepare as much as we could together this week in order to step up.”
Doyle was asked if his father said much to him this week about getting a start and how special that was for the family.
“This is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he said. “Me stepping onto the field at Kinnick and starting a game. I have played on special teams this year and everything. This was just another step in the process. Just continue on this journey and try to improve.”
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