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Iowa football notebook: Color linebackers green

BY JOSHUA BOLANDER | APRIL 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last spring, preceding their first season working together at Iowa, linebacker coaches Jim Reid and LeVar Woods had a unit built to anchor a Big Ten defense.

There was consistency, where James Morris recorded a tackle in 49 out of his 51 games as a Hawkeye. There was speed and aggression on the outside, whether it was the “generational” talent of Christian Kirksey, according to Woods, or the playmaking ability of Anthony Hitchens. And, perhaps most importantly, there was experience — 967 career tackles from the three seniors combined to be exact.

Without a single starter back from a year ago, Woods and Reid answered a number of questions regarding the unknown at the Hayden Fry Football Complex Wednesday afternoon.

Alston ‘special’

A week after head coach Kirk Ferentz described Quinton Alston’s last 12 months as transformational, Iowa’s positional coaches added the word “special” to define the senior’s potential.

“Quinton has a special quality.  He has a great understanding of the game,” Reid said. “He has a great focus. He’s got a great intensity, and right now he has a great enthusiasm. He’s making all the calls, just like James [Morris] did.”

Although Alston did see time in Phil Parker’s third-down and raider packages last season, the Sicklerville, N.J., native was used sparingly in 2013 (12 tackles). And despite having one shot as a starter in Kinnick, Alston is confident that his time spent competing against Morris, Hitchens, and Kirksey has prepared him for this moment.

“I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m just going out there and trying to take on the leadership role that those three guys left for us,” said Alston. “They taught us how to do it.”

The unknown

Woods recruited Reggie Spearman throughout much of the Windy City product’s prep career. But there was one thing Iowa’s linebacker coach missed during the now sophomore’s recruitment.

“In camp last year, I found out it’s going to be his birthday,” Woods said. “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, and his dad said, yeah, he’s only going to be 17.”

Spearman is listed as a starter on Kirk Ferentz’s latest two deeps, making him one of the youngest defensive starters not just in the Big Ten but in the country.

“He’s in my office all the time. In fact they call him Reggie Reid,” Reid said. “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.”

Rudock, Weisman healthy

After nagging injuries sidelined them for portions of the 2013 season, team doctors have medically cleared both quarterback Jake Rudock and running back Mark Weisman.

Rudock, who missed the fourth quarter of Iowa’s Outback bowl loss to Louisiana State with a left knee injury, confirmed that he will wear a brace throughout the upcoming season but made it clear his focus is building on his sophomore campaign (2383 yards, 18 touchdowns).

“Coach Ferentz always talks about having to re-earn your spot every single year. You can’t just walk on the field expecting to be where you were,” said Rudock. “You have to keep moving forward and get better each and every day.”

The junior signal-caller will have plenty of help in the backfield in 2014, with a healthy Weisman leading a stable of backs that includes Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels.

“We have so many running backs out here,” said Weisman. “It’s a crowded backfield which is a good backfield because we are making everyone better. We’re just going to feed the hot hand out there.”


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