IOWA CITY — When Jim Reid isn’t coaching Iowa linebackers, he collects art.
Not the strokes of a Picasso or Rembrandt or the creations of a great sculptor like Michelangelo, but the work Reid collects is every bit as beautiful.
The art of a well-executed defensive play from his 37 seasons as a football coach is what Reid collects.
The work of a linebacker stuffing the run or ripping apart a pass play are masterpieces to his eyes, stored on everything from the latest DVDs to dusty old 16-millimeter film.
“If you would ask my wife, she would tell you whenever we’ve moved that we’ve had one van for the furniture and one van for all the highlight tapes going all the way back to when I first started at the University of Massachusetts,’’ said Reid, who cut his coaching teeth at UMass in 1973.
As he prepares for his third season at Iowa, Reid is looking to add to his collection of art as he continues to mold a collection of still-young linebackers into the shape it takes to be competitive in the Big Ten.
Iowa finished the 2014 season with redshirt freshmen Bo Bower and Josey Jewell joining senior and first-year starter Quinton Alston in the lineup at the linebacker positions.
Statistics illustrate how that group compared to the all-senior trio of Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris the Hawkeyes fielded at linebacker in 2013.
Iowa linebackers recorded 30.5 tackles for a loss that season, a byproduct of experience and the ability of the three to read plays. A year ago, linebackers accounted for 18.5 of the Hawkeyes’ tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“Although we lose a guy like Quinton Alston who ran our defense beautifully, made all the calls, we have a nice collection of real heady players who are very aggressive up the field and are athletic enough to bring us back hopefully to that number that we had in 2013,’’ Reid said Wednesday.
That isn’t all about physical ability. The ability to anticipate what is coming, the skill to accurately read the line of scrimmage and to see the splits and know what play the formation will likely lead to are all part of the development taking place.
Reid, now coaching all of Iowa’s linebackers after working with inside linebackers while splitting duties with LeVar Woods last season, said he had no problem with the effort he saw from his unit last season. The growth will come in execution and development gained through experience.
“I think we are going to be playing hard. I think we’re going to be physical and we’ve got to make more plays,’’ Reid said. “I think we’ve got the guys to be able to do it.’’
He expects improved consistency to be the objective of a collection of players that could fit together in a number of ways.
Iowa opened spring practices last month with Jewell listed at the middle linebacker spot, Bower at weakside and a third sophomore, Ben Niemann, at the outside position.
Seniors Travis Perry and Cole Fisher and redshirt freshman Aaron Mends are listed as backups, but Reid said cautions that everything at the linebacker positions is “fluid’’ this spring.
He said part of the beauty of the Iowa defense that long-time coordinator Norm Parker implemented 17 springs ago is its flexibility.
“What we are trying to do now is have all the positions be fluid, so we can move from inside to outside,’’ Reid said. “There’s a lot of shifting that goes on and we need to be able to respond to that.’’
Reid believes the pieces are in place for Iowa to regain the edge it had at the linebacker position, adding that he was echoing the sentiments of defensive coordinator Phil Parker and other staff members.
“I think we all believe that we are heading in the right direction with this crowd,’’ Reid said. “It’s a fun crowd to coach because they are into it big time.’’
Reid praises the toughness he sees in Jewell and Bower and said Niemann, one of three true freshmen to see the field for the Hawkeyes, “fits the definition’’ of an Iowa linebacker with his quickness, athletic ability, toughness and the way he sees the game.
He also doesn’t discount the potential contributions of Perry, who started two games before suffering a broken ankle late in Iowa’s loss at Minnesota last season, and Fisher.
“We have a neat combination of some experienced players who know what is going on and some young, eager players who have played and some guys like Aaron Mends who is going to be an exciting player for us,’’ Reid said.