This is the fourth story on spring football.
This week I’ll look at the linebackers, defensive backs and special teams.
The Hawkeyes have to replace three really good linebackers.
James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey combined to start 104 games in the last four years.
None of the three red shirted and they totaled 985 career tackles.
The first time I saw James play was his junior year at Solon.
James was an all-state running back and all-state linebacker.
I always wondered how well James could have done at running back. I talked to Carl Jackson, former Hawkeye running back coach, and he told me James would have been great at running the Wildcat offense.
James could have sat back in the shotgun, ran it off tackle, pitched it to a tailback or throw a pass.
James didn’t do too bad on defense his first year at Iowa as he was named first team Freshman All-American in 2010. He played in all 13 games that season with six starts.
James started in 12 games his sophomore year and was academic All-Big Ten. In his junior year, James played in all 12 games with 11 starts. He was given the Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” award on defense.
Last season, James played his best football. He was named second team All-Big Ten and Capital One First Team Academic All-American.
Anthony was also a great tailback coming out of high school, where he scored 52 career touchdowns at Lorain, Ohio.
Anthony played in 18 games in his first two years and totaled 34 tackles. In his junior year, Anthony started in 11 games and was honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Last year, Anthony was named the MVP of the defense. He was also second team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
Christian played in 11 games as a freshman and started in all 13 games as a sophomore. As a junior, Christian had 12 starts and was named “Next Man In” award-winner on defense.
Last season, Christian was named honorable mention All-Big Ten and is one of three defensive players in Iowa Hawkeye football history to score three defensive touchdowns.
The three will be missed for their leadership on and off the field.
The top three linebackers this spring include Quinton Alston, Travis Perry and Reggie Spearman.
Quinton (6-1, 232) will be a senior and played as a true freshman. He was academic All-Big Ten as a sophomore and has been doing a good job of backing up James the last couple of years.
Backups to Quinton include John Kenny (6-2, 225) and Chad Gilson (6-1, 235).
John is a redshirt freshman and was named first team all-state at Carmel, Indiana. He also played lacrosse and hockey.
Chad played two years at UNI and has two years left to play at Iowa. He played in 17 games as a Panther and went to high school in Urbandale, where he was named to the elite first team as a senior.
Travis Perry (6-3, 232) will be a junior and is the top outside linebacker.
Travis is a walk-on from Urbandale where he was first team all-state as a senior where he played defensive back and wide receiver.
Last year, Travis was won the Team Hustle Award on Special Teams.
Backing up Travis is junior Cole Fisher (6-2, 233).
Cole played in eight games last year, mostly on special teams.
Cole grew up in Omaha, Neb., where he was named to the first team Super All-State Team.
Reggie Spearman is the top linebacker on the weak side.
It’s hard to believe the 6-3, 225 pound sophomore-to-be is only 17.
Kirk Ferentz said Reggie “looks like a football player.”
Linebacker coach Jim Reid added that Reggie was in his office so often that players called him “Reggie Reid.” Reggie was named first team all-state growing up in Chicago and was named to team USA.
He played as a true freshman and it will be fun to watch him develop.
Cole Fisher (6-2, 233) and Josey Jewell (6-2, 225) are listed behind Reggie.
Cole was named academic All-Big Ten for the second straight year. He has played in 18 games the last two years, mainly on special teams.
Josey, a redshirt freshman, is from Decorah where he was a four-sport athlete. He came to Iowa as a running back/ linebacker weighing 200 pounds and his team was 14-0 his senior season in high school.
Desmond King (5-11, 190), Maurice Fleming (6-0, 200) and Sean Draper (6-0, 190) are listed as the top cornerbacks.
Desmond started in 12 games last year as a true freshman and is the first true freshman to start at defensive back since 2002.
Maurice was a top recruit coming out of Chicago where he was first team all-state as a senior. He played quarterback, running back and defensive back in high school.
Greg Mabin (6-2, 195) is also in the mix at corner. Greg is a sophomore from Florida and holds the school’s records in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
John Lowdermilk (6-2, 210) is listed as the number-one strong safety.
John, who will be a senior, played in 11 games as a true freshman, 11 games as a sophomore and started every game last season.
Nico Law (6-1, 205), also a senior, is listed the number two strong safety.
Nico played in all 13 games as a true freshman, all 12 games as a sophomore and played in every game last year.
Jordan Lomax (5-10, 200) and Anthony Gair (6-2, 200) are listed one and two at the free safety position.
Jordan saw action in nine games last season with one start. He was named academic All-Big Ten. He played as a true freshman.
Anthony played in all 13 games last year as a redshirt freshman.
Phil Parker, the defensive back coach and defensive coordinator, did a great job last year bringing more pressure and with an experienced defensive line, the Hawkeyes should be solid.
It’s not going to be easy replacing Mike Meyer.
The former Dubuque Wahlert prep ended his career at Iowa with 122 consecutive extra points, which is a school record.
Mike also finished second to Nate Kaeding with 61 career field goals and second in career scoring with 324 points.
Mike won the Reggie Roby Special Team Award last year and was named second team All-Big Ten.
Mike had a lot of good things to say about former Solon prep Marshall Koehn (6-0, 195), including his strong leg.
Marshall, who kicked an extra point last year and a kickoff, was first team all-state in his senior year at Solon. He also lettered in baseball, soccer and wrestling. Solon was 41-1 in Marshall’s four years and won four state championships in football.
The Hawkeyes also signed Mick Ellis (5-10, 180) out of Allen, Texas. Mick was first team, all-state, hitting 13-17 field goals his senior season.
Connor Kornbrath (6-6, 240) is back at punter.
Connor, a junior, tied for third in the nation with 14 punts inside the opponent’s 20. He averaged 40 yards per punt last year.
Iowa also signed junior college punter Dillon Kidd (6-2, 230).
Dillon averaged 38.2 yards per punt last season at El Camino Community College and should challenge Connor.
Kevonte Martin-Manley ranked second in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation in punt returns (15.7). Kevonte is the first Big Ten player ever to return back-to-back punts for touchdowns in one quarter.
Right now, Jordan Canzeri is listed as the top kick-off return man.
Mike Meyer leaves big shoes to fill.
It would be great to see Marshall step up and get the job.