116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
No. 21 ...
Hawkeyes fans who are brave enough to closely follow the roller-coaster world that is college football recruiting know that the 'hat game” usually doesn't favor the Hawkeyes. The 'hat game” is when a recruit calls a news conference for his announcement and lines up hats of the schools that are finalists for his talents. Earlier this summer, Minneapolis defensive end Jashon Cornell listed Iowa as a finalist, but didn't even leave a hat out for the Hawkeyes.
So, yes, the hat game does have a rep for being a cruel tease to Iowa fans. Iowa's last win in the hat game? It's probably sophomore linebacker Reggie Spearman (6-3, 230).
The night before the national signing period started Feb. 6, 2013, Spearman gathered with 11 of his Chicago Simeon High School teammates for commitment announcements. Then, he pulled out a Syracuse baseball cap.
'Naw, I'm going to Iowa,” said Spearman, who previously orally committed to Illinois in August ‘12. 'It definitely was the people at Iowa, the players. I know a lot of players on the team. Everything just seemed to fit for me at Iowa.”
Spearman chose the Hawkeyes over his other finalists Illinois and Syracuse. He had been committed to the Illini since the summer, but an official visit to Iowa City in November and an unofficial visit just before 2013 signing day convinced Spearman he wanted to be a Hawkeye.
Young one ...
Spearman didn't turn 17 until halfway through his first Iowa camp last August. He'll turn 18 in about a month and he'll be a college sophomore with an inside track on the starting weakside linebacker position. I believe he was young for his grade (born Aug. 17, 1996) and skipped the fifth grade.
Outside linebacker coach LeVar Woods recruited Spearman. He didn't even know.
'It's crazy,” Woods said. 'I recruited Reggie. When he told me that, I was like, ‘Reggie!' I just thought I missed it or whatever.
'In camp last year I found out it's going to be his birthday. I'm like, ‘Oh, man, great, You're going to turn 18. He said, ‘I'm going to turn 17.' I was like, ‘What?' You're going to turn 17?' I said, ‘Reggie, stop messing around.' Then I talked to his dad, texted his dad. He said, ‘Yeah, he's only going to be 17.'
'So that's my fault I missed that in recruiting. But it is ironic. He's a great young man, and he's done an excellent job.”
What does Iowa have here ...
It's really hard to say. Spearman broke into the lineup as a true freshman last season in a newish role on the Iowa defense. Around the Ohio State game, defensive coordinator Phil Parker broke out a third-down rush package (Raider) where three players rushed the passer. They were DT Louis Trinca-Pasat and linebackers Quinton Alston and Spearman. From there and on special teams, Spearman picked up 10 tackles. He basically got his feet wet.
We still don't know the range of his skills at linebacker. One snapshot from spring: DE Nate Meier tipped a Jake Rudock pass and Spearman picked it off. He only had to run through Rudock for a TD, so he might've had an INT with a TD return.
This spring, inside linebackers coach Jim Reid was asked what can Spearman be and what will it take to get there?
'That's why we're coaching him,” Reid said. 'He has some great qualities. Last year you saw him rush the passer, some in our subpackages. Gained some really good experience.
'I'm not trying to dodge the question. I just don't know. But that's why we have spring practice. When you take a look at it, he wasn't here last year, so he had preseason, spent I think two weeks with coach [LeVar] Woods at the LEO position and came back inside. But 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.”
It looks as though Spearman is a starter. His competition seems to be coming from redshirt freshman Josey Jewell. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker liked what Jewell did this spring. Jewell finished spring filling in for Travis Perry (concussion) at outside linebacker. But the point is Jewell had himself a spring.
'Jewell has really showed up out there, just as a football player,” Parker said. 'He was an inside backer behind Q [Alston] and Reggie, really as a backup will [weakside]. 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.”
Spearman has played, and so he enjoys the confidence that goes with that.
'When you say growth, you can something you may not see that I could see was all of a sudden maybe Reggie and Quinton walk into the meeting room with their chests out just a little bit more, with a little bit of a smile on their face,” Reid said, referring to their experience on the 'Raider” package. 'All of a sudden now it means a little bit more because they're part of it, and they deserve to be part of it because they worked hard. So, growth takes a lot of different avenues that you need to see.”
The WLB, along with the corner who's not Desmond King, might be the most hotly contested position going into August camp.
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