April 8, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the biggest names on the University of Iowa defense is thinking small during spring practice.
The Hawkeyes made their annual April pilgrimage to chilly Valley Stadium on Friday and after nine spring practices, junior middle linebacker Josey Jewell is refining little details.
Jewell has enjoyed a meteoric rise for the Hawkeyes. He started the final four games at weakside linebacker as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and was named Iowa’s MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl after compiling 14 tackles (seven solo). In 11 games as a freshman, Jewell made 51 stops with a sack.
There was no sophomore jinx in 2015 as Jewell led the Hawkeyes with 126 tackles. He made 7 ½ tackles for loss with six pass breakups, four interceptions (one in the Rose Bowl Game), and three sacks.
Jewell and first-year linebackers coach Seth Wallace are on the same page of the playbook when it comes to Jewell’s springtime mentality.
“You hone in on small details and adjust to different kinds of play and playing with different players,” Jewell said. “It is about being able to adjust to different things and being able to improve small details and get better every day.”
Jewell has long been perceived a leader among the UI linebackers, a fact officially endorsed when he was named permanent defensive captain at the awards banquet March 4. He is the first Hawkeye sophomore to be named permanent team captain.
“Just going out there every day and improving will increase your value to the team,” Wallace said. “I think all that he’s looking at doing right now is just going out there and doing everything he can to make those around him better, including himself.”
High school multi-sport athletes have always appealed to UI head coach Kirk Ferentz and prospered within his program. Jewell fit that description, playing football, basketball, track, and baseball at Decorah (Iowa) High School. He was running back and linebacker when the Vikings defeated Sioux City Heelan 49-21 to win the Class 3A state title in 2012. Jewell carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the championship game, caught one pass for 23 yards, and even completed a pass for 32 yards. On defense he made five tackles with an interception.
That versatility made Jewell extremely valuable to his high school team, but Division I college coaches wondered if he had what it took to succeed at one position in a Power 5 conference.
“You hone in on small details and adjust to different kinds of play and playing with different players. It is about being able to adjust to different things and being able to improve small details and get better every day.”
UI junior linebacker
“Projecting him as a scholarship linebacker in the Big Ten is maybe what held some folks around here back a little bit,” Wallace said.
The Hawkeyes offered Jewell a scholarship on Feb. 3, 2013, and three days later he signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Iowa.
In three seasons with the Hawkeyes, the 6-foot-2 Jewell has added nearly 25 pounds (up to 230) and become a go-to guy in the film room and on the field.
“Josey is the leader of this team, I think everybody would recognize that,” Wallace said. “If you come out and watch him practice, you can tell he’s a leader. He doesn’t have to open his mouth. It’s the way he goes about things, conducts himself and what he expects of those around him.”
Most Hawkeye fans remember the 2015 season as a rosy one with 12 consecutive victories; Jewell is peeved by back-to-back losses in the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl Game.
“You have to remember what happened last year at the end of the year and understand what we need to do to get back to where we want to be,” Jewell said. “We can’t do the same things we did last year, we have to step it up and be able to understand we need to have our best every game.”
Jewell moved to middle linebacker as a sophomore, starting all 14 games and being named second team All-Big Ten. He understands the significance of playing middle linebacker at Iowa, a program that has produced recent greats Abdul Hodge, Pat Angerer, and James Morris. Jewell’s jersey number is 43, the same Angerer wore from 2006-09.
“You have to take pride in that, you’re a middle linebacker at Iowa and that is what they have always done in the past,” Jewell said. “You have to go with the role and be able to help others and show by example by hustling every play and doing the small things right every day.”
Central Iowa caught a glimpse of the Hawkeyes on Friday; they will next be on public display inside Kinnick Stadium on April 23, beginning at 1 p.m. (CT).