INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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No. 36 ... We don’t often get details on the debates between the coaches when it comes to handing out scholarships. I’m not suggesting they’re not constructive, but put yourself in Phil Parker’s or Bobby Kennedy’s shoes. You look at your roster and you feel like you need another defensive back or wide receiver, you’re going to go to the coaches meeting and make your case.
There are positional ties and there also are scouting ties. Coaches scout their areas, find players and build their case in favor of. Defensive line coach Reese Morgan has made a few of these arguments since joining Kirk Ferentz’s staff in 2000. When he comes to the table with a player, there’s a high degree of credibility (Morgan did find LB Chad Greenway playing nine-man football in rural South Dakota).
This is how it went down with Jewell, a 6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman.
“He’s a guy Reese [who recruits Iowa and the plains] has felt very strongly about through out the process,” former Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson said in February 2013. “When Reese feels strongly about a person, that holds high regard in our minds. He knows these kids inside and out. When Reese really went to bat for [Jewel], coach [Kirk Ferentz] took that into account and offered him a scholarships.”
Spring has sprung ... There were three players who sort of came out of nowhere for Iowa this spring. Of course, WR Derrick Willies opened eyes in a big way. On defense, cornerback Greg Mabin and Jewell showed up and showed up and showed up.
“Jewell has really showed up out there, just as a football player,” Parker said. “He was an inside backer behind Q [Quinton Alston] and Reggie [Spearman], really as a backup Will [linebacker]. And we look at it and say, ‘Who is the guy going out and making plays?’
“You just watch the film and you just watch the guys running around on tape and you see him tracking guys down. Somewhere, he’s going to have to fit in our system, OK, because when you give that much effort and you attack the football the way he does and make plays the way he’s done, he’s going to probably show up. Does he know everything right now? Not yet, but he still has a long way to go.”
In Iowa’s spring game at Kinnick, veteran outside linebacker Travis Perry was held out due to concussion. Jewell stepped in as the depth.
“Chip on the shoulder” factor ... That’s a thing. You just know it is. Iowa doesn’t shop at the same store Ohio State and Michigan shops at for players. Maybe not every recruit has the “chip on the shoulder” factor, but you know that the majority of the two-star, MAC/FCS-level recruits Iowa takes comes with that mentality already installed. This isn’t a rallying call, as in “Kirk Ferentz does more with less (remember that old trope?) or “Iowa is the little engine that can (occasionally).” It is part of what Ferentz and staff look for in recruiting. It’s not easily defined and it’s usually something that can’t be measured at a recruiting combine.
“We’re trying to find out is this guy going to have the kind of pride and work ethic and perseverance it takes to earn a degree at a Big Ten university and also play in a program that’s going to demand a lot of hard effort and work and that type of thing?” Ferentz said. “ ... That is the biggest thing we’re trying to gauge, obviously, outside of the obvious minimal athletic requirements. To me it’s all about can the guy run the whole race, run it well and run it hard?”
Outlook ... Jewell comes with the “chip on the shoulder” factor. When he was named The Gazette/KCRG football player of the year in 2012, Jewell had yet to sign with Iowa. He talked about being perceived as the fringe FBS player who was considered too short, not big enough and not fast enough.
“I’ve seen some stuff on the Iowa Preps, looking at those things,” he said of the general messageboard criticism. “I probably shouldn’t, but I’ve just been reading them and I don’t know. It just makes me be more determined and work harder to get to that area to prove them wrong.”
“I always thought I wanted to play D-I football. Everybody was like, ‘No you won’t. You won’t be good enough. You have to be really good for that. That’s not you,’ I was like, well I’m just going to have to work hard. I guess it’s kind of turned out.”
Jewell is now running the race.
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