IOWA CITY — Iowa’s linebacker corps replaces three starters, so obviously there’s some concern for Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz.
Quinton Alston was the de facto fourth starter on last year’s linebacking unit. He was capable of playing the middle or weak side if necessary, but neither James Morris nor Anthony Hitchens left the field. Alston, a senior, has the most experience of the current crop and Ferentz has confidence he can become a strong leader this fall.
“Outside of Quinton I don’t think we’re totally established with anything,” Ferentz said Saturday. “I feel really good about Q.”
Sophomore Reggie Spearman plays the weak side next to Alston, while junior Travis Perry contributes at the outside slot. For much of Saturday’s practice, Perry shifted inside and red-shirt freshman Josey Jewell competed at first-team outside linebacker. The team was working through emergency scenarios, Alston said.
“This is just a trial week just in case later in the season when we have guys with nicks and bruises,” Alston said. “We have guys who know the position and have experience playing the position. So far we’ve seen great performances out of Travis Perry, Josey Jewell, guys like that.”
Jewell was a late recruit last year from Decorah and has turned heads last spring and this month. Also competing at the outside spot on the second unit was red-shirt freshman Bo Bower of West Branch. Ferentz said both players figure in the plans.
“Both of those guys did a good job in the spring and (true freshman) Ben Niemann has jumped in the fray a little bit, too,” Ferentz said. “Bo and Josey are guys that ought to be really good special teams players for us. Hopefully they’ll help up us.”
“(Jewell is) very aggressive. Very aggressive,” Alston said. “As you can see sometimes when he came down hard in the inside play and he’s hitting fullbacks. He’s just playing fast, That’s what I love about Josey. He’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s Iowa. He’s a Hawkeye. He’s going out there, playing fast and I love it. He’s a linebacker.”
Corner competition heats up
Sophomore Desmond King has locked down one of the cornerback slots, but the other cornerback spot remains wide open.
A three-way competition among Maurice Fleming, Sean Draper and Greg Mabin remains fierce, Ferentz said Saturday. Mabin, a sophomore, went down with a minor injury on Thursday and will not practice until Monday or so. Draper and Fleming alternated repetitions with the first-team defense Saturday.
“It’s been a three-way deal,” Ferentz said. “I would say it’s still there. Greg really has done a good job and he just went out two days ago I think it was. Reece has missed a little time. I think it’s up for grabs right now.”
Fleming, a sophomore, played on special teams last year after opening his Iowa career as a wide receiver. Draper, a junior, played in nine games last year and 11 as a true freshman in 2012.
“They’re all on the same page right now so it’s kind of hard for coach to figure out who’s going to start,” King said. “It does (matter who starts) because I need to know who’s going to be on the other side of me and to get that defensive scheme that we need to have in common.”
True freshman Miles Taylor (6-0, 185) worked with the second unit at strong safety.
“I see Miles coming in as a freshman, kind of sort of like I came in, just basically learn our coverages and catch on with the defense fast and contribute early,” King said.
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