IOWA CITY, Ia. – LeVar Woods has seen enough to be encouraged.
As a linebackers coach for Iowa’s football team, Woods caught an early glimpse of the players who will fill a glaring void in the Hawkeye defense.
Travis Perry, Quinton Alston and Reggie Spearman have all spent time on special teams, where Woods had a chance to mentor them and evaluate their performance.
“I think special teams is almost harder to play than it is linebacker,” Woods said. “Because you’re doing all this in open space, and you’re transitioning from an offensive player to a defensive player and vice-versa.
“So you’re able to see a young man’s athleticism and his instinct.”
Woods would like to see Perry, Alston and Spearman carry a seek-and-destroy attitude over to the defense.
“Let it loose and go out and play,” Woods said. “See who can run. See who can play. See who will hit. Who can put themselves in the right place, and then coach them off of that.”
Woods is entering his seventh year on the Hawkeyes staff, after lettering as a linebacker for Iowa from 1998 to 2000 and spending seven seasons in the NFL.
He and fellow linebackers coach Jim Reid helped develop Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey into a dominant tackling trio.
Now, they’re overseeing a transition.
“I don’t like to use the word replace, because the three young men leaving here are three outstanding young men,” Woods said. “The things that they’ve done for us the last three years and culminating in their senior year, I think it’s hard to replicate that.”
Hitchens, Morris and Kirksey recorded 984 tackles in their careers. Perry, Alston and Spearman have 48.
“It’s definitely a difficult challenge,” Woods said. “We have a lot of young guys who are here now working.
“Some guys with some experience … in different packages and things like that. But we also have a lot of young faces that no one knows about yet, and we as coaches don’t know about, who we’re trying to find out and see, ‘Are they really who we think they are?’ ”