No. 35: LB Quinton Alston
Arrival: Remember the Pitt transition from Dave Wannstedt to Mike Haywood to that guy who quit after a season and went to Arizona State? Wannstedt resigned. Haywood was hired and then fired after a domestic abuse charge. That one dude is at Arizona State. Pitt now has Paul Chryst and will be an interesting outfit.
The big swirl was in 2011. What is a recruit to think when the school that had been recruiting him with one coach hires and then fires another? Pitt was lucky it didn't lose an entire class. It did lose Alston, who accepted a scholarship with the Hawkeyes.
Alston, 6-1, 224, picked Iowa without a visit. "I knew there would probably be some criticism about that, but I looked at it from the perspective of what am I going to see that's going to alter my decision? What stadium or what building is going to change my mind?" Alston told HawkeyeReport.com. "That stuff doesn't really matter to me."
2012 Takeoff: Alston, a true sophomore, is listed as the No. 2 middle linebacker behind junior and two-year starter James Morris. Junior Anthony Hitchens took over the weakside spot going into spring and did nothing to give it up. Alston is likely the No. 3 inside linebacker.
The four inside LBs listed on the spring depth chart, including sophomore Marcus Collins, are in the sophomore/junior range. Basically, the football biological clock is ticking for these guys and their direct competitors.
Alston's best way in is to make himself the third best linebacker overall. Right now, that's Morris, Hitchens and outside linebacker Christian Kirksey. We learned last season that there is a bit of a difference between the two outside positions -- reads, passing game -- but it's not mountainous. Tyler Nielsen moved from OLB to MLB rather seamlessly. He'll make a run at WLB as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.
Kirksey spent the first seven games at WLB last season before switching to OLB, where he seems to have found a home.
If we're talking top three, Morris and Kirksey feel as though they are anchored. That leaves Hitchens and Alston competing for an inside spot.
You have to assume Alston makes one or more special teams units. He's on the leadership committee, and that wouldn't hurt Iowa's special teams. It wouldn't hurt to have a core group take ownership for special teams, which, as you can see, has been a theme in this series so far.