Iowa defensive back John Lowdermilk, right, celebrates with linebackers Christian Kirksey, center, and Reggie Spearman (6) after Lowdermilk intercepted a pass by LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings during the third quarter of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


IOWA CITY - As Iowa football players prepare to put the pads on for the second time this spring today, Hawkeye linebacker assistants are still getting to know the personnel they are working with.

With three starting spots to fill, LeVar Woods and Jim Reid continue to learn the strengths of players competing to replace Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris.

"You don't just replace guys like that," Woods said. "We are looking to fill spots where three outstanding players played, individuals who have outstanding futures in front of them in football and life."

Both Reid and Woods said that process is ongoing.

Reid reiterated today what coach Kirk Ferentz said a week ago.

Iowa linebackers are being encouraged to play fast on the practice field without fear of making mistakes.

"We'll deal with cleaning up the detail work later," Reid said. "What we want right now is to see what they can do instinctively. We want to see the fundamentals become second nature to them in his they play the game."

Both coaches indicated the most experienced back-ups -- Quinton Alston, Travis Perry and Reggie Spearman -- have performed well but they like what they are seeing from other lesser-known players.

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"We have a lot of young faces out there that no one knows about yet and that we as coaches don't know a lot about yet," Woods said. "We are learning every day just like they are."

Today's practice is the fourth of 15 for Iowa this spring, and the second in pads.

The Hawkeyes' first public appearance of the spring comes one week from Saturday in an open practice at West Des Moines.