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Tarpinian finds a home


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Jeff Tarpinian may not have been wearing a yellow jersey during the conclusion of football spring practice on April 17, but the Hawkeye considers himself a signal caller nonetheless.

“You get to be the quarterback of the defense,” Tarpinian said about playing middle linebacker. “You’ve got to make the calls, get everyone lined up. You’ve got to know what’s going on in front of you and behind you. You got to help make the defense a unit and make sure everything goes fluidly out there.”

The Omaha native’s career to date can be described a little less fluidly. Maybe more like a pinball that has bounced from position to position.

When the senior-to-be first came to Iowa, it was as a safety. He wears the No. 33, similar to a former Hawkeye who sat in the secondary and feasted on opposing players.

After redshirting in 2006, he shifted from safety to linebacker, and before the 2008 season got underway, he was poised to become Iowa’s starting weakside (WILL) linebacker. Instead, he later lost the competition for that spot to Jeremiha Hunter, who has held it since.

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Now in 2010, Tarpinian has bounced over to the middle (MIKE) position that Pat Angerer formerly held. And it’s a move that has players talking.

“We made some jokes on the field during the scrimmage, and I was asking him, ‘Is MIKE linebacker way easier than WILL?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot easier, and it’s more fun, too,’ ” Hunter said on April 17 after the team’s final spring practice in Kinnick Stadium.

Tarpinian has gotten used to making changes on the field, working to become a better player while moving around to various spots on the defense.

Before the Hawkeyes concluded spring practice last weekend, defensive coordinator Norm Parker said Tarpinian would be “a major factor” in how well the Iowa defense plays in 2010.

Parker made the claim, despite Tarpinian having yet to start on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve fooled around with several combinations at the linebacker position, and I think all the guys have done a nice job,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said on April 17. “If we were playing tomorrow, Jeff Tarpinian would be our middle linebacker. I’m really pleased with his progress.”

Tarpinian switches with the hope that his success as a special-teams contributor carries to the defense, where he’s asked to emerge as a leader.

His teammates certainly believe Tarpinian is up for the task.

“Jeff’s a smart guy. He knows what he’s doing and picked up on the defense real quick,” linebacker Tyler Nielsen said. “He’s one of those who comes in and watches film all the time, so he knows what’s going on, plays fast.

“He’s a physical, athletic guy, and he’ll be a good fit there.”

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