A few years ago I remember talking to some friends about Bo Bower being the next great Iowa linebacker. Back in 2014 as a redshirt freshman he started all 13 games for Iowa, recording 38 total tackles. He was honorable mention Freshman All-Big Ten according to BTN.com and things were looking bright for Bower as he entered his sophomore season.
However, Cole Fisher emerged as a breakout player in Iowa's Rose Bowl season last year, taking the place of Bower. Bower did play in all 14 games for Iowa, but only racked up 15 tackles over the course of the season.
Many projected that Aaron Mends would take Cole Fisher's place at the weak side linebacker spot, including myself. In fact, up until it was announced that Bower would be starting, I still thought Mends would get the nod even with all the buzz surrounding Bo. But that is not the case and the former walk-on from West Branch, IA will find himself in the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon.
Bower has impressed throughout fall camp and could be primed for a big role for the Hawkeyes this season. He's entering his fourth season in Iowa City, so he knows the system a little better than Mends does and he has more experience that Mends does. This gives Iowa three upperclassmen starting in their linebacking corp, all juniors.
It appears that Bower is finally putting together what I saw a few years ago when he was a freshman. It just took him a little longer than anticipated.
Bower's starting role likely isn't set in stone, and sophomore Aaron Mends will see his share of the snaps. You can get a good look at guys in practice, but being out on the field during a game is an entirely different ball game.
Bower likely holds down the starting spot for the entirety of the season, but Mends will be close behind him.
Either way you slice it, Iowa's linebackers look like they could be the deepest position group this season. Look for Bower to finally burst out of his shell and have a really nice season for the Hawkeyes in a starting role.