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The Box Score: Spearman’s production and replacement

BY DANNY PAYNE | OCTOBER 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Early in the morning of Oct. 25, Iowa weak-side linebacker Reggie Spearman was arrested and charged with OWI. As a result, head coach Kirk Ferentz suspended the sophomore for a minimum of one game and said he will face other consequences.

The first-year starter has had an up-and-down season, and this edition of the Box Score will focus primarily on Spearman’s performance and how Iowa will replace him against Northwestern on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.

Total tackles — 34 (T-7th for Iowa)

This metric is the most basic form of measuring a player’s defensive prowess, but it’s a good place to start. We’ve seen the Chicago native play like a first-year starter at times. There are two examples that jump right up: in run support and in pass coverage.

To be fair, Spearman isn’t the only member of the Hawkeye defense who has had trouble tackling the past few weeks. There was one particularly bad example in the Hawkeyes’ loss to Maryland before the second bye week.

Jacquille Veii took a handoff out of a three-back set and ran to Spearman’s side. The linebacker set the edge well and forced Veii to cut back inside. However, he took on a block and stopped his feet, hoping for one of his teammates to make the tackle inside.

Veii bounced outside with Spearman on the ground and took it the remaining 23 yards to put Maryland on the board.

That was just one example of poor play this year, but Spearman, for the most part, has done a serviceable job at his position in running situations. It seems most of the problem comes when the other team throws.

Pass break-ups — 2 (T-2nd for Iowa)

Spearman, along with Iowa’s other starting outside linebacker, Bo Bower, have each broken up two passes this year. It’s hard to quantify exactly how well a player defends passes because of the complex nature of the passing game, but it’s a good place to start.

As a whole, opposing quarterbacks have picked on the Iowa linebackers this season, especially early on. A telling play of how Spearman’s rough adjustment to pass coverage as a starter came against Iowa State on Sept. 13.

Spearman really had no chance to get a hand on running back DeVondrick Nealy. The Cyclone came out of the backfield on a wheel route and torched Spearman before catching a pass for a touchdown.
The play is telling of Spearman’s play in pass coverage. It’s certainly an area he’s struggled in on more than one occasion this season.

Total tackles — 7 (Josey Jewell, 14th for Iowa)

Josey Jewell — Spearman’s replacement as of Monday, when Iowa released its most-recent two deeps — was hurt at the end of the summer and beginning of fall, and he made his season début against Iowa State.

In terms of his play, it’s best put this way: There hasn’t been any one play that comes to mind in which Jewell obviously botched an assignment or execution.

He had a sack for 11 yards at Purdue on Oct. 11. Spearman had his only sack of the season against Ball State, which coincidentally also went for 11 yards. Spearman was also credited with a half of a tackle for loss against Pittsburgh, while Jewell’s only tackle behind the line of scrimmage was against Purdue.

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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