1. James Morris, sr., 6-2, 240; 2. Quinton Alston, jr., 6-1, 224
1. Anthony Hitchens, sr., 6-1, 233; 2. Marcus Collins, jr., 6-0, 222; OR Cole Fisher, so., 6-2, 218
1. Christian Kirksey, sr., 6-2, 230; 2. Travis Perry, so., 6-3, 230
THE REST (MIDDLE/WEAKSIDE)
Laron Taylor, r-fr., 6-0, 225; Reggie Spearman, fr., 6-3, 225; Luke Lindahl, fr., 6-0, 215; Bo Bower, fr., 6-1, 211; Chad Gilson, jr., 6-1, 230; Drake Kulick, fr., 6-1, 205
THE REST (OUTSIDE)
John Kenny, fr., 6-2, 215; Josey Jewell, fr., 6-2, 200
At no other position is this more obvious than at linebacker where James Morris already owns 29 starts. He’s the team leader, the high-profile face of Hawkeyeland. He’s also very talented, racking up 293 tackles in three seasons. Six different times he’s posted 13-tackle games, including last year’s season finale against Nebraska.
“James is a great player,” outside linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “I’ve been around James since my freshman year. We came in here together as freshmen not knowing anything. He ended up playing his true freshman year so you’d better have a lot of trust in that. You can just see that he’s a guy that loves football. He goes out there and gives it his all. He doesn’t complain. He just loves football.”
It’s difficult to break into a unit with a combined 66 starts, but right now four different players need to be ready at all times because their shot is coming next year — or even sooner. Junior middle linebacker Quinton Alston has the most experience among the candidates, starting at Michigan last year and playing in 11 games. He also competed in several games as a true freshman. At weakside, junior Marcus Collins and Cole Fisher are competing as co-No. 2 while sophomore Travis Perry is slated as Kirksey’s backup. All four backups were academic all-Big Ten last year and all were regulars on special teams.
Four freshmen form the next wave of Iowa linebackers, including Laron Taylor, who red-shirted last year. Taylor is a natural for special teams duty and was a team captain for Detroit’s Cass Tech team that won the 2011 championship. True freshman John Kenny enrolled in the spring and participated in spring drills. He was an all-stater last year at Indiana’s Carmel High. He also played hockey and lacrosse, neither of which are offered at Iowa.
Participating in drills for the first time are Reggie Spearman and Josey Jewell. Spearman doesn’t even turn 17 until Aug. 17, but he has impressive size (6-3, 225) and a pedigree. He helped Chicago Simeon to three straight public league championships and guided the team to the Chicago Prep Bowl victory as a senior. Jewell, The Gazette-KCRG All-Area Player of the Year, took Decorah to the Class 3A title last year as a running back and linebacker. He rushed for 21 touchdowns and registered 100 tackles.