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Hawkeyes have depth, questions at linebacker

[ 0 ] August 14, 2014 |
Iowa's Saturday game against Ohio State will be the last in the series until 2017. They don't play in 2018 or 2019. (Register file photo)

Departing linebackers James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens will be a tough act to follow. (Register file photo)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – You can understand why Iowa football fans are a little leery about their linebackers.

The projected starters are largely untested, and the reserves were mostly buried on the depth chart a year ago.

Well, let freshman linebacker John Kenny put you at ease.

“We’re a new group. We’re hungry,” Kenny said. “We’re looking forward to going out there and proving what we can do.”

The accomplishments of Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens were well documented. They combined for 322 tackles last season, before embarking on NFL careers.

Filling the void is: Quinton Alston at middle linebacker, with Travis Perry and Reggie Spearman manning the outside positions.

“Whenever there are empty questions, you need answers,” Perry said of the scrutiny his unit is facing. “That’s what we’re pushing for each and every day, to better ourselves not only as linebackers, but the whole defense.”

Sounds good, but nothing was set in stone when coaches and players met with the media two weeks ago.

“I don’t know who’s a starter and who’s a backup,” linebackers coach LeVar Woods said. “It’s wide open. The guys have been told that. It’s going to be an incredibly competitive camp.

“It’s going to be a fun camp.”

So, who could get significant snaps?

*Chad Gilson, a senior from Urbandale who played two years at Northern Iowa, is listed behind Alston on the two-deep roster.

“He had a really good spring game and he’s motivated,” Woods said. “He’s ready to go in and play well for us.”

*Josey Jewell, a redshirt freshman from Decorah, is a second-teamer behind Perry.

“He has an innate ability to chase the football,” Woods said. “What’s funny about him is, we moved him around a couple spots and as soon as he gets in… boom, he’s on it.”

*Cole Fisher, a junior from Omaha, played in 10 games last fall, mostly on special teams.

“Cole has very good athleticism,” Woods said. “He needs experience. That’s what he’s been working on, getting the in-game experience.”

*Kenny is sort of a wild card, a co-backup listed alongside both Fisher and Gilson.

“We’ve been going in for film together, doing all that kind of stuff,” Kenny said. “So I’d say we’re pretty prepared, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

Bo Bower, a redshirt freshman from West Branch, could also make an impact.

“We’re just trying to carry on what (last year’s starters) have done, because they were unreal,” Bower said. “They were the heart of the defense.

“We learned a lot, and I think we’re ready to roll. I think we’re ready to go.”

We’ll see what kind of momentum they have in the Aug. 30 opener against Northern Iowa.

But the future looks promising and there should be plenty of options, especially if newcomers Parker Hesse, Aaron Mends, Jameer Outsey and Ben Niemann live up to billing.

“I’m incredibly excited about the four freshmen,” Woods said. “They’ve shown themselves to be good players and good prospects.”

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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