Iowa's Alston ready to lead

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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“Can I have a piece of paper?”

Quinton Alston approached this reporter on the Valley Stadium sidelines on April 12 with that question. He wanted a piece of paper because he needed to teach something.

So he took one, said “Thank you,” and walked over to a cooler. There, with teammate Cole Fisher at his side, he drew up some Xs and Os. The offense was doing something that perhaps confused Fisher, so Alston decided to nip the bad habit in the bud, right there, in the windy heat of West Des Moines.
Alston, of course, is poised to be Iowa’s new starting middle linebacker. But that worries some Iowa fans.

Truth be told, the whole linebacking corps for the 2014 season concerns the Black and Gold faithful a little bit and for good reason. Whoever steps into the shoes once filled by James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey will be, in a word used a lot by head football coach Kirk Ferentz, inexperienced.

The 6-1, 232-pound Alston will likely be under the brightest and most-watched spotlight. He’s set to take over perhaps the most important position on the defense after seeing limited action over the last three seasons (just 24 total tackles while seeing action in 29 games).

But even with the inexperience, Ferentz has constantly praised Alston this spring, saying that he’s done a good job of leading the defense. A prime example was his mentoring of Fisher on April 12, as it garnered the attention of nearly every media member on the sidelines.

“He’s done a great job,” Ferentz said. “He was right there last year. He just wasn’t on the field as much.”

Indeed, Alston saw his most game action last year (13 games, 12 tackles and a fumble recovery). He knows Phil Parker’s defense as well as anybody and shows it in his demeanor. He is a senior, after all.
That kind of confidence has been seen in a number of ways. Last year, Alston helped defensive assistant Jim Reid coach critique Morris — “He coached James last year as hard as I did,” Reid said on April 2.

This spring, the seemingly always-loose Alston can be caught singing and whistling during stretches and practices. He’s constantly encouraging and teaching his teammates on the sidelines.

“He’s actually pretty funny,” fellow senior Carl Davis said. “He likes to have a good time. But he leads by example.”

Davis wasn’t surprised when Alston took Fisher aside on the sidelines. It’s something he’s long done, because it’s always to help better the defense.

“He’ll even talk with me sometimes,” Davis said. “We have great communication. If we see something that’s wrong with the defense, we’ll communicate, and he’ll address it. He’s not going to yell at you. He just wants to fix the problems.”

That approach has helped Alston earn the respect of his teammates. Iowa strong safety John Lowdermilk echoed what Davis said of Alston, saying that people follow him and listen when he speaks.

“When we came in freshman year, he was the leader of our freshman class,” Lowdermilk said. “He’s very vocal and a hard worker. That’s just his personality.”

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