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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Four Downs — The Linebackers (post-spring)
FOURTH DOWN - What did we learn this spring?
We didn't learn a whole lot about how the three prospective starters - Quinton Alston, Reggie Spearman and Travis Perry - might perform. The mantra from linebacker coaches this spring was 'fast mistakes.” Iowa wants its new linebackers to play fast and worry about tightening performance in fall camp.
That's an excellent way to play it, really. No one wants a linebacker standing still and spinning his mental wheels. As far as how the LBs did on the field in the two open practices this spring, Alston was a feisty competitor. He was everywhere he needed to be and a willing combatant on the line of scrimmage (yes, this included one-on-one wrestling time with OT Brandon Scherff). Spearman is the real newbie in the crowd. At Des Moines, he picked off a tipped Jake Rudock pass and returned it for a TD. Perry was what Iowa coaches thought he would be, but after the Des Moines practice, he suffered an illness and lost 12 pounds and sat out Iowa's spring finale with another injury. The junior has been a backup the last two seasons. He's a known commodity, but still could use reps as a starter.
THIRD DOWN - The linebacker-leadership thing
The linebacker league of justice Iowa put together last season with seniors Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris - all professional football players now - did a lot for Iowa's defense. They were used all over the field in every situation, but they also helped bring along the bigger concepts of team defense. During one of the open scrimmages last fall, Morris constantly chirped about knowing 'where your help is.” That's team defense, and the exact kind of defense Iowa absolutely has to play.
This is where Alston comes in. He's a magnetic personality. His sister, Jade, is a singer who tours. His other sister, Jasmine, is the tour photographer. Personality can go a long way in football, as long as the requisite talent and work ethic also is there.
'He has the respect of our players,” inside linebackers coach Jim Reid said. 'When he speaks, he's like EF Hutton, people listen.”
SECOND DOWN - Who said what?
'This guy likes football. They all do, and this guy really likes it. He's in my office all the time. In fact they call him Reggie Reid. But he's a marvelous student, and he really is working hard both physically and mentally to become a great football player, and he'll get there.” - Linebackers coach Jim Reid on sophomore weakside linebacker Reggie Spearman
'It's different. Just talking about this defense at Iowa, this program. As a player I played at 242 pounds, 245, somewhere in that range at the LEO position.
Christian Kirksey last year who now I say that he sort of has broken the mold for LEO'S, he maxed out at 232, 234, something like that. So, it's 10 pounds difference, and he had to run. Those guys had to run. I couldn't run like that. It's just a little bit different. The game is more spread out. The game is more wide open, if you will, more passing, and you have to be able to run and react quicker than in the past where gone are the days really of big 250-, 260-pound linebackers. That's definitely changed.” - Outside linebacker coach Christian Kirksey, who played OLB at Iowa and is now the coach
'Don't be afraid to make a mistake. Start the play with instinct. If your instinct is wrong, we'll correct it. Now that sounds almost like opposites, but, hey, you play with what you think that you see and we'll clean it up after that.” - Reid on what he's telling his new starters
FIRST DOWN - Summer cliffhanger
These three are new starters. Alston and Perry are staked players. Alston has put in his time and has put himself in the best position possible for this shot. Perry also has put in his time. He entered games as the No. 4 or No. 5 LB in 2012. He's known and has confidence of coaches.
If anyone feels competition this fall, it will be Spearman. He's a 6-3, 230-pounder, but he's new on this level. Who'll push him? Red-shirt freshman Josie Jewell opened eyes this spring and slid into the OLB spot when Perry was injured. He's a player on defense who made a depth chart move this spring.
'Jewell has really showed up out there, just as a football player,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. 'He was an inside backer behind Q and Reggie, really as a backup Will. 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.”
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