May 31, 2011
MIH: #9 Tyler Nielsen
The outside linebacker position might be one of the more unappreciated spots on the Iowa defense. That was the stop that Tyler Nielsen was holding down before a neck injury put him on the sidelines in the middle of last season. Nielsen is back on the field and his play will be key for Iowa's success on defense in 2011 and that is why he comes in at #9 on our Most Indispensable Hawkeyes (MIH) list this year.
MEASUREMENTS: 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds
THE NUMBERS: 42 tackles, including four for loss. One interception and four pass breakup's
WHY NIELSEN MADE THE LIST:
Tyler Nielsen had some pretty big shoes to fill last fall when he took over the outside linebacker position from a three year starter and NFL Draft pick in A.J. Edds. If you look back to last season, Iowa's linebacker play really started to struggle after Nielsen sustained a neck injury against Michigan that essentially ended his junior year. To his credit, he showed a heck of a lot of toughness, playing the next week against Wisconsin despite the injury and started the following week against Michigan State, before his season came to an end.
After his injury, Iowa was forced to go very young and/or inexperienced at his spot and as a result the Hawkeye defense really struggled, especially late in games. Nielsen had his up's and down's early in the year, but he was playing his best football before the injury put him on the sidelines for the rest of the year.
We still haven't seen him in actual live game competition since the injury, but he did participate in spring ball and he looked comfortable at his position and didn't shy away from the bumps at the position. Nielsen has ideal size for the position and is much quicker than people will give him credit for being on the field of play.
A healthy senior season would give Iowa a real boost, especially since the defensive line will have pockets of inexperience and while there are some talented players coming up through the ranks, it's still a very thin position in terms of experience and some of the players behind him are coming back from injuries as well.
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