football Edit

Next Man In: Jay Higgins

Entering his fourth year at Iowa, Jay Higgins will be tasked with taking over the Mike linebacker role this fall.
Entering his fourth year at Iowa, Jay Higgins will be tasked with taking over the Mike linebacker role this fall. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

There are some big names from Iowa's defense last season that won't be donning the black and gold again in 2023. Losing Riley Moss, Kaevon Merriweather, Lukas Van Ness, John Waggoner and Seth Benson from one of the best defenses in the country definitely hurts.

But, there's one 6'5", 249-pound void that's going to be incredibly difficult to fill -- Jack Campbell at the Mike linebacker position.

A native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Campbell posted 305 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 15 PBUs, five interceptions, three sacks and three forced fumbles in 43 games over four years for the Hawkeyes. The 2022 unanimous All-American was named the top linebacker in the country last season, earning the 2022 Butkus Award.


The next man in for filling that void: Jay Higgins.

The 6'2", 229-pound rising senior has seen limited action in his three years as a Hawkeye, receiving the majority of his snaps last season and starting two games. Over that stretch, he posted 39 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, and half a sack, and he's received all the belief he could ask for from his teammates.

"I've seen a lot of growth out of him so far," said Logan Lee, who will be sidelined until May with a shoulder injury. "He's been able to run the defense. It's a lot of fun to have new guys like him in there. Watching from the sidelines, it's been great to see how much he is improving. You're never going to replace Jack Campbell, but he is Jay Higgins and he's going to do a darn good job for us."

"I always knew Jay was going to step into that role very nicely with the way he carried himself these last couple of years," senior defensive end Joe Evans said. "Being able to see his leadership out there, his communication and the way he comes out to practice every day -- it's really great to see, just his effort level."

Higgins knows how critical his new role is to Iowa's success on that side of the ball, too.

"I've got to be the leader of the defense," Higgins said at Thursday's spring practice media availability. "That's what the Mike linebacker position entails. When we're out there on the field, Coach (Seth) Wallace and Coach (Phil) Parker can only coach so much. Someone out there has to run the show, and I've waited three years to do it."

"I'm proud of the position I'm in," Higgins said. "That pressure, and how hard it is to play the position, I know it's a privilege. Right now in spring ball, I'm making sure I'm another coach on the field."