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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
5 Guys — The players, not the hamburgers
IOWA CITY - Sometimes, an Iowa coach will surprise with a name that hasn't been heard much. Until yesterday, there hadn't been much Josey Jewell talk.
Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker went out of his way to mention the red-shirt freshman linebacker, a former four-sport star at Decorah High School. So now, there's at least a little something to go on. Now, there's Josey Jewell talk.
After Saturday's spring game at Kinnick Stadium (scrimmage begins at 2 p.m., gates open at 1), you'll know a little bit more about the 2014 Hawkeyes. New names are emerging and will emerge.
Here are a few Iowa assistants talked about during the course of spring practice:
1. Linebacker Josey Jewell
- Aside from a spot on the 'all-name team,” Jewell is a red-shirt freshman who reported at Iowa last fall in the 200-pound range, so you knew it was going to be a build for Jewell. It still is, but the 6-2, 225-pounder has opened some eyes.
'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.”
Parker said outside linebacker Travis Perry has missed some time with an illness and Jewell has been his backup.
2. Cornerback Greg Mabin
- The 6-2, 195-pounder has quietly made his presence felt this spring. So much so, he's climbed into the race for the open cornerback spot, competing with junior Sean Draper and fellow sophomore Maurice Fleming.
Mabin has bloodlines in his favor. His dad, Wes, played cornerback for Nebraska, winning two national titles from 1968-71. His cousin, Jordan, played cornerback at Northwestern.
In discussing potential corners, Parker put Mabin's name on the list.
'But there's another guy, Greg Mabin, who's made a lot of plays this spring and you guys probably don't even have him on your list,” Parker said (and, no, wasn't on the list). 'But he's a very tall, lengthy guy and he's made a lot of plays for us and he can run. He hasn't had very much playing time and he hasn't tackled very much, but he's made some progress there. It's going to be a challenge to figure out. Right now, I couldn't tell you who's going to be the No. 2 corner.”
3. Defensive end Nate Meier - Meier is a junior, so you have some book on him (mostly seen as a third-down pass rush specialist last season). He wears No. 34 as a defensive end (he had two sacks in'13), so you also know that's not conventional and tells you, yes, he was at one time a running back at Iowa.
Parker said Wednesday Meier (6-2, 244) has built his body to the point where he's pushing starter Mike Hardy for the job.
'One thing about Nate Meier is we know he's tough,” Parker said. 'He was a little bit underweight last year and learning the position. I think he's really gotten better playing blocks ... I think Nate put on a little bit of extra weight, is a little bit more active. It's going to be a good battle. Our decision isn't made up yet, but he's going to have to play on first and second down, too.”
4. Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg
- A lot of the talk this spring has been about new wide receivers, red-shirt freshman Derrick Willies first and foremost.
Don't forget Matt Vandeberg. Of the five wide receivers Iowa signed in 2013, the 6-1, 175-pounder was the lone true freshman to play last season. He caught eight passes for 59 yards, but the season was more about learning the position.
His skill set has allowed him to learn two of the three Iowa receiver positions. During Iowa's scrimmage in West Des Moines on April 12, VandeBerg was the lone receiver in some one-WR sets.
'Matt is a guy who can play more than one spot,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. 'When you're playing with tempo, and for the receivers to play in the run and the pass game, the way you want, you have to rotate some players in there.”
Davis did finish the question on Iowa's new receivers with 'Derrick [Willies] has had a really good spring for us.”
5. Random offensive lineman guy - O-line coach Brian Ferentz said the left guard spot will likely be the rotating position this year, in the same way right guard rotated between Jordan Walsh and Andrew Donnal last season (they're projected starters for 2014, by the way).
Red-shirt freshman Sean Welsh (6-3, 285) is listed No. 1 right now, but Ferentz said that's just where the line starts. Sophomores Ryan Ward (6-5, 290) and Mitch Keppy (6-5, 298) and red-shirt freshman Boone Myers (6-5, 285) also are in the mix.
'We're not ready to anoint anyone,” Ferentz said. ' ... He's [Ward] one of those guys, along with Sean, along with Boone Myers, along with Mitch Keppy, there's a whole tier of guys who are really competing to earn some playing time.
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