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Iowa football: An analysis of the linebackers

[ 0 ] August 15, 2013 |

For LeVar Woods, the transition is complete.

He took the final steps in his journey from player to coach last season, assuming responsibility for a developing group of Iowa linebackers.

“I feel a ton better than I did last year,” Woods said. “Feel more prepared, not as nervous going into a meeting or a practice.

“You should never be comfortable at anything, but I feel more at ease than I did before.”

Iowa senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens, from left, James Morris and Christian Kirksey pose during media day at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (David Scrivner / HawkCentral.com)

Iowa senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens, from left, James Morris and Christian Kirksey pose during media day at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (David Scrivner / HawkCentral.com)

Woods, a Hawkeye linebacker from 1998-2000, can take some comfort in having three returning starters.

He’ll also be joined by first-year assistant Jim Reid, a former linebackers coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The trio of Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey combined for 332 tackles in 2012, and even more will be expected this fall.

Woods and Reid will also try and develop depth for the future.

“We’re excited,” Woods said as his eyes lit up. “If you can’t tell, I get a little emotional about it.”


It stars with Morris (6-2, 240, Sr.), a two-time Gatorade player of the year from Solon. He was third among Big Ten Conference tacklers (9.4 per game) as a junior and his name currently appears on several notable preseason watch lists, including the Lott and Bednarik awrds.

But who’s next on the Iowa roster?

Quinton Alston (6-1, 232, Jr.) is the primary back up after appearing in 11 of 12 games as a sophomore.

He made his starting debut in a 42-17 loss at Michigan, recording two solo tackles.

“I call him a gamer,” Woods said, “because I’ve been riding his butt a few times last year in practice. I’m not sure I want to put him in, and he goes in the game and he makes big plays.

“There is always something to be said for that.”

Chad Gilson (6-1, 230, Jr.) transferred from Northern Iowa. Reggie Spearman (6-3, 225, Fr.) made 12 sacks as a high school senior in Chicago. Dalton Shaull (6-1, 213, Fr.) redshirted after walking on.


Hitchens (6-1, 233, Sr.) led the Big Ten with 11.2 tackles per game.

He was named a third-team, preseason all-American by Phil Steele’s College Football preview magazine.

Kirksey (6-2, 235, Sr.) recovered four fumbles in 2012 and made two interceptions.

“I’m excited about this whole group,” Woods said. “This system is set up for linebackers to make plays, and that’s what they have to do.”

Travis Perry (6-3, 232, So.) is competing for snaps behind Kirksey.

The Urbandale High School alum joined the Hawkeyes as a walk-on, but played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman and started at Michigan.

“I coach Travis on a day-to-day basis,” Woods said. “The guy is wicked smart. Crazy, crazy smart.

“It’s very, very rare that Travis will repeat a mistake, which to me is not only a sign of a good football player, but a smart person.”

Cole Fisher (6-2, 228, So.) was a prep safety in Omaha and has contributed on special teams for Iowa.

He helped Millard North win a state championship as a senior.

“Cole has very, very good feet,” Woods said. “He’s very quick, explosive. For him, it’s a matter of experience, a matter of confidence.”

Marcus Collins (6-0, 222, Jr.) has 11 career tackles, but was slowed by injuries last fall.

He’s an academic all-Big Ten honoree, who was once the best defensive player in Philadelphia’s Catholic League.

“The guy was a high school wrestler,” Woods said. “I think some of that will end up translating for him this year.

“He’s a real firecracker.”

John Kenny (6-2, 215, Fr.) was touted as the Hawkeyes’ top linebacker recruit by 247Sports, and he enrolled early. Josey Jewell (6-2, 200, Fr.) was selected to the Des Moines Sunday Register’s elite all-state team. Palmer Foster (6-3, 220, Jr.) is looking for his first game action.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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