IOWA FOOTBALL

Hawkeyes' Alston ready to make the most of his one chance

2014-04-05T15:30:00Z 2014-04-07T21:08:11Z Hawkeyes' Alston ready to make the most of his one chanceSteve Batterson sbatterson@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

IOWA CITY — Quinton Alston doesn’t major in patience at Iowa, but it is one skill the Hawkeyes’ middle linebacker has mastered.

After three seasons of watching and waiting behind James Morris, learning every step along the way, Alston is ready to make his own mark from a spot in the heart of the Iowa defense.

“I only get one chance and I’m ready to make the most of it,’’ the senior said.

Alston is positioned to fill one of three vacant linebacker spots for the Hawkeyes, a role he has prepared for and is determined to make the most of now that Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey have completed their eligibility.

“Those three players have meant a lot to our defense and now is the time when we need guys to step and emerge,’’ Alston said. “Playing middle linebacker, I feel like I need to be one of those guys and I’m ready to make that happen.’’

He’s not the only one who believes that.

Iowa inside linebackers coach Jim Reid senses that as well, believing that Alston has perfectly tackled the wait for his one-year starting opportunity.

“He’s tough, he’s physical and you know what, he has the respect of our players,’’ Reid said. “When he speaks, he’s like E.F. Hutton, people listen.’’

There was a time when Alston and even coach Kirk Ferentz wondered if that would happen for the 6-foot-1, 232-pound native of Sicklerville, N.J.

Alston enters his senior season credited with 23 tackles in his career, stepping into a role where Morris averaged just under 10 tackles per game over the past three seasons.

“It’s not easy, waiting and wondering if it is every going to happen, but as long as you keep working and believe in the system, you know the chance is there for things to eventually work out,’’ Alston said

Ferentz said following Alston’s sophomore season he questioned internally if that would happen.

“A year ago, I wasn’t sure where it was going, quite frankly, based on the year before that,’’ Ferentz said. “But, he had a really good spring (in 2013) and had an outstanding fall. If James wasn’t here last year, we had all the confidence in the world that he would have played really well. He just got positioned behind a really good player.’’

The growth Ferentz has seen from Alston led to opportunities last season which have only added to the confidence Iowa coaches have in Alston filling the quarterback-like spot in the Hawkeye defense.

Alston was part of the so-called Raider package that Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker designed for third-down situations last fall.

In the rush package, Alston and freshman Reggie Spearman — who is competing this spring for the starting role at weakside linebacker — lined up as a defensive end as part of a three-man front.

“We played out of position a bit and came off the edges. It was fun,’’ Alston said.

And, it prepared both for expanded roles this season.

“What I saw last fall was all of a sudden Reggie and Quinton walked into the meeting room with their chests out just a little more, with a little bit more of a smile on their face,’’ Reid said. “All of a sudden it means a little more because they’re a part of it, and they deserved to be part of it because they worked hard. Growth takes a lot of different avenues.’’

Alston has traveled many paths since switching from his initial commitment to Pittsburgh to Iowa following a coaching change.

“I don’t regret anything,’’ Alston said. “I’ve been part of a great program and if I wouldn’t play a down next season, those thoughts wouldn’t change. Coming to Iowa is the best decision I’ve ever made.’’

For now, as he works toward the Hawkeyes’ first public appearance of the spring next Saturday in a 1 p.m. open practice at West Des Moines Valley High School, Alston’s energies are focused on doing what he has prepared three seasons to do.

“The three guys ahead of us last year, they taught us how to do it and they left us the blueprint,’’ Alston said. “Now, it’s time to step up and lead.’’

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Football schedule

2014 Hawkeyes (7-6)

Date Opponent Time/result
8/30/2014 Northern Iowa W 31-23
9/6/2014 Ball State W 17-13
9/13/2014 Iowa State L 20-17
9/20/2014 at Pittsburgh W 24-20
9/27/2014 at Purdue W 24-10
10/11/2014 Indiana W 45-29
10/18/2014 at Maryland L 38-31
11/1/2014 Northwestern W 48-7
11/8/2014 at Minnesota L 51-14
11/15/2014 at Illinois W 30-14
11/22/2014 Wisconsin  L 26-24
11/28/2014 Nebraska L 37-34
1/2/2015 Tennessee L 45-28

Future schedules

2015 Hawkeyes (0-0)

Date Opponent Time/result
9/5/2015 Illinois State TBA
9/12/2015 at Iowa State TBA
9/19/2015 Pittsburgh TBA
9/26/2015 North Texas TBA
10/3/2015 at Wisconsin TBA
10/10/2015 Illinois TBA
10/17/2015 at Northwestern TBA
10/31/2015 Maryland TBA
11/7/2015 at Indiana TBA
11/14/2015 Minnesota TBA
11/21/2015 Purdue TBA
11/27/2015 at Nebraska TBA

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Hawkeyes bowl history

1957 Rose   Oregon State W 35-19
1959 Rose   California W 38-12
1982 Rose   Washington L 28-0
1982 Peach   Tennessee W 28-22
1983 Gator   Florida L 14-6
1984 Freedom   Texas W 55-17
1986 Rose   UCLA L 45-28
1986 Holiday   SDSU W 39-38
1987 Holiday   Wyoming W 20-19
1988 Peach   NC State L 28-23
1991 Rose   Washington L 46-34
1991 Holiday   BYU T 13-13
1993 Alamo   California L 37-3
1995 Sun   Washington W 38-18
1996 Alamo   Texas Tech W 27-0
1997 Sun   Arizona State L 17-7
2001 Alamo   Texas Tech W 19-16
2003 Orange   USC L 38-17
2004 Outback   Florida W 37-17
2005 Capital One LSU W 30-25
2006 Outback   Florida L 31-24
2006 Alamo   Texas L 26-24
2009 Outback   South Carolina W 31-10
2010 Orange   Georgia Tech W 24-14
2010 Insight   Missouri W 27-24
2011 Insight   Oklahoma L 31-14
2014 Outback   LSU L 21-14
2015 TaxSlayer   Tennessee L 45-28