Spring Central: Look for an improved Spievey in '09

April 18, 2009

Spring Scrimmage Photo Gallery (April 18) | Spievey Spring Practice Video

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s been said that only wise men learn from their mistakes. In the case of University of Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey, that can be amended to wise men and talented football players.

The spring practice portion of the Hawkeye football season is winding down with the final workout Saturday, April 18. Like the majority of UI players, Spievey has spent the first 14 days of spring drills in learning mode — more specifically, learning from past gaffes.

“I want to work on the mistakes I made last year and make sure I don’t make the same ones,” Speivey said. “I also want to get stronger and faster and work on my footwork and look like a corner.”

Spievey amassed huge numbers as a two-way player at Xavier High School in Middleton, Conn. Offense was his specialty and Spievey rushed for 50 career touchdowns with eight more coming as a receiver. But at 6-foot, 190-pounds, defensive secondary was his collegiate destiny. As a junior college All-American at Iowa Central in 2007, Spievey intercepted seven passes (returning two for scores) and blocked four punts.

“I’ve been playing offense all my life,” Spievey said. “Last year I used to hop around a lot because on offense you’re a little jerky and try to stay shifty. This year I’m trying to calm me feet down and stay low.”

Last season Spievey tied for third on the team with free safety Brett Greenwood with 68 tackles. He was second among all Hawkeyes with 43 solo tackles and third with four interceptions. A 57-yard interception return for a touchdown by Spievey with 27 seconds left before halftime at Minnesota on Nov. 22 gave Iowa a 27-0 lead and essentially assured victory during a 55-0 rout. Spievey likes to have the football in his hands and intercepting passes is one way to accomplish that goal.

“I think Spievey — since we’ve been here — can be the best corner we’ve ever had. Last year was a real pleasant surprise and he’s only gotten better. He’s picking it up mentally and attitude-wise. I think he’s going to be really good.”
UI defensive coordinator
Norm Parker

“That’s my opportunity to show what I can do with the ball,” he said. “That’s my comfort zone. I just love having the ball, so every play I’m going after the ball, trying to get it and take it back.”

Returning kicks is another. Spievey said it is possible he will be on the receiving end of kickoffs this season, so he has been working on catching kicks in an effort to “get my hand-eye coordination back.” During his season in junior college, Spievey returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Spievey started all 13 games last season at right cornerback. The Hawkeyes played eight bowl-bound opponents and finished with a record of 9-4 overall, including a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Iowa’s defense finished fifth in the nation in fewest points allowed (13.0 per game), ninth in fewest rushing yards allowed (94.0 per game) and 12th in fewest total yards allowed (291.31 per game).

“Our defense can be very good again,” Spievey said. “We have a lot of experienced guys coming back. The bar was set pretty high last year and now we’re going to try to go beyond that.”

The graduation loss of left corner Bradley Fletcher will leave a void, but there is plenty of experienced youth ready to bolster the Iowa secondary. The spring depth chart for the safety and cornerback positions lists three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“That pushes me to get better,” Spievey said. “I’m trying to keep my job. These young guys work very, very hard and a lot of them are very good. Greg (Castillo), Willie Lowe, (Shaun) Prater — they all look natural and I admire that because when I came in here I didn’t look natural at all.”

As one of three juniors on the two-deep in the defensive backfield — Jordan Bernstine and Greenwood are the others — Spievey wants to amplify up his leadership role.

“I’m going to show leadership through my actions and my work ethic and how hard I play on the field,” he said.

To say that Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker has coached his share of outstanding players is an understatement. At a press conference Tuesday, Parker said Spievey has a chance to be one of top cornerbacks in 10 years he has been a Hawkeye.

“I think Spievey — since we’ve been here — can be the best corner we’ve ever had,” Parker said. “Last year was a real pleasant surprise and he’s only gotten better. He’s picking it up mentally and attitude-wise. I think he’s going to be really good.”

Click this link to view an exclusive 25-image photo gallery from Friday’s practice.

Iowa concludes spring practice tomorrow (Saturday). The Hawkeye’s season-opener will be Saturday, Sept. 5, against Northern Iowa.

2009 Iowa Football Season Ticket Application (v3a)