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Iowa's linebackers coach likes depth, potential

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Jim Reid is an art collector. But, you won't find any of his treasures in a gallery.

Iowa's energetic 64-year-old linebackers coach finds beauty in a film clip. A perfectly executed play is worth millions.

"I know that sounds crazy," Reid said. "I honestly see great skill and talent, and I see artwork."

When he finds his latest piece of art, Reid adds it to his collection. He tells his players, " 'I'm going to cut this play out and they are going to bury me with this play. I'm proud of you for making this play.' I've said that so many times, I'm going to have to have a casket maybe the size of this room."

Reid didn't add much to his collection last season, when inexperienced linebackers replaced one of the best trios in school history. Gone were outside linebacker Christian Kirksey, who got significant minutes with the Cleveland Browns; weakside linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who also got a lot of playing time with the Dallas Cowboys; and middle linebacker James Morris, who spent the season on injured reserve with the New England Patriots.

Kirksey, Hitchens and Morris combined for 36.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks in 2013. Iowa linebackers had just 17.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks in 2014.

Entering last season, Iowa's linebackers had two career starts — one each by Travis Perry and Quinton Alston. It was trial by fire for guys like freshmen Bo Bower, Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann, who had to play before their time.

A season of experience, another year in strength coach Chris Doyle's weight room and some shuffling of positions later, the linebacker position looks like an upgrade.

Bower, Jewell and Niemann, listed as the starters, all joined the Iowa program as two-star recruits according to Rivals. Bower was a walk-on, passing on a scholarship offer from Northern Iowa. It looked like Jewell was going to be a Panther, too, until Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz offered a scholarship four days before letters of intent could be signed. Niemann originally committed to Northern Illinois as a wide receiver.

Jewell, who started the final four games and had 14 tackles in the season-ending loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, has been switched from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker this spring. Bower, who is now on scholarship and started 13 games at outside linebacker last season, is at weakside linebacker. And Niemann, who played in all 13 games as a true freshman, is at outside linebacker.

Though Jewell and Bower have changed spots, Reid said some players will get snaps inside and outside depending on what the offense presents. Seniors-to-be Perry and Cole Fisher are high on Reid's list. So are redshirt freshmen Aaron Mends and Jameer Outsey. Reid said that Mends has "electric feet" and a "giant heart."

Reid's enthusiasm is infectious to those who spend time around him.

"A very energetic guy," Perry said. "Very small in stature. But he comes across as about 8 feet tall."

Reid will tell you his world is his players and his fellow coaches. He said if he dropped dead during a game, "I'd be dying in a sacred place, the football field."

No one wants to see Reid buried in a casket full of video clips just yet. There's still plenty of time to add to his art collection.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.

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