116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
No. 37 . . .
The dominoes started seriously falling on Iowa's linebacker depth in 2010. The Hawkeyes started the season with two seniors and a junior at the three linebacker spots. Going into November, it was a freshman, a fifth-year senior reserve and . . . senior walk-on Ross Petersen was, at one point, in consideration. Last season, Iowa made it the entire year with three senior starters. Quinton Alston and Reggie Spearman played some, but not as linebackers. They were keys as stand-up defensive ends in Iowa's third-down rush package.
After the three expected starters (Alston, Spearman and Travis Perry), there still isn't much experienced depth. Junior Cole Fisher (6-2, 233) hasn't played much, seeing action in 10 games last season mostly on special teams, but he is a fourth-year player. Linebacker is a violent position, as you know. If someone goes out, Fisher is one of the first ones who'll be considered to go in.
No. 37, again . . .
This is the third year we've done the top 45 exercise. Fisher was No. 37 last season. He's No. 37 again. So, not a lot has changed. He's still on the special teams/depth player circuit.
This spring, Fisher was the No. 2 weakside linebacker, behind Spearman, who's only a sophomore. He was on the first punt cover unit. He didn't see any time with the No. 1s. Iowa coaches seem invested with Spearman at WLB. Still, there's a long way to go until Aug. 30.
Last year, I wrote 'Fisher is another third-year sophomore who probably feels the itch to be counted on as a contributor. The only sliver of a possibility for playing time at linebacker in '13 probably falls with junior Quinton Alston, a backup middle linebacker who could break into some playing time in the middle and thus moving [James] Morris to the weakside. But that's probably a long shot. Three senior linebackers seals things off a little bit. Fisher's route to the starting lineup in '14 will come through special teams. That's been done before at Iowa.'
It's not over at WLB, but with Iowa seemingly invested in Spearman and with Spearman's experience at the position limited, reps for anyone else in August are going to be hard to come by.
Competition in the ranks . . .
Iowa had to sort through the depth chart this spring when Perry suffered an illness and a concussion and was forced to sit out for the spring game. This elevated redshirt freshman Josey Jewell. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said good things about him. Others in the mix for LB depth are sophomore Laron Taylor, Chad Gilson and John Kenny.
Iowa also has incoming freshmen Ben Niemann, Aaron Mends and Jameer Outsey (possible D-end?). You feel as though Iowa is getting caught up on the linebacker depth chart.
Outlook . . .
Fisher knows what he's doing out there. The civil engineering major earned academic all-Big Ten for the second consecutive season last fall. The physical skills remain the question. In the 'glass half-full' category for Fisher, Spearman is an inexperienced linebacker. Will he see the game well enough to be a factor? It's Fisher's job to give linebackers coach Jim Reid something to think about in August. And you for sure can put Fisher down for a handful of special teams.
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