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Trio of possible linebacker replacements all saw brief on-field action in 2013

[ 0 ] January 4, 2014 |

Quinton Alston will be a senior on Iowa’s 2014 football team. And maybe, just maybe, his time has come.

“It’s been hard not playing,” Alston said. “But at the same time, we’re family here, so the main focus is to go out there and get another win.”

Iowa will take the field without standout linebackers James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens in 2014. They accounted for 322 tackles, 35.5 of them for a loss, as well as 9.5 sacks, six interceptions and six forced fumbles.

Heading into the Outback Bowl, Alston was listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind Morris at middle linebacker. Travis Perry, a redshirt sophomore, was behind Kirksey at outside linebacker. True freshman Reggie Spearman was behind Hitchens at weak-side linebacker.

“There’s always going to be big shoes to fill, regardless of who is in front of you,” the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Alston said. “Next year we’re looking forward to it, and I believe we can step up to the task.”

Alston, Spearman and Perry did see action in every game this season. Alston and Spearman, just 17 years old, were part of Iowa’s third-down “Raider” package.

“We had three great senior linebackers, as everyone knows, and they’ve really set the bar high for us,” said Perry, a walk-on from Urbandale. “You learn from great players, and try to emulate what they’re doing.”

Alston predicts big things for Spearman, a 6-3, 225-pounder from Chicago.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth, from the first day he was here to now,” Alston said. “I mean, he’s grown leaps and bounds. Big steps. I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he can make a lot of plays for us next year. He goes out there and plays with a lot of energy.”

Spearman could be the next Iowa linebacker to go through the program in four years, without the benefit of a redshirt season. Morris, Kirksey and Hitchens did the same.

Perry turned down several offers from FCS schools, including Northern Iowa, to give Iowa a shot. Now the 6-3, 232-pounder, who’s added 30 pounds to his frame since his senior year at Urbandale, is in position to make that gamble pay off.

“Any time you come into the starting lineup you have to have a little chip on your shoulder,” Perry said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. Just because we’re in the two-deep right now doesn’t mean you’re going to be the starters. We’ve got a new recruiting class, and guys coming up, and everyone is competing.”

Kirksey said the linebacking position is in good hands.

“Quinton learned a lot from James,” Kirksey said. “Hopefully, Travis learned a lot from me, and (Reggie from Anthony). These guys will be fine. They’ve got a bright future.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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