IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) LeVar Woods is a soft-spoken former linebacker who looks like he could still suit up for the Hawkeyes. Jim Reid is a loquacious coaching lifer who’s made Iowa City perhaps the last stop of an illustrious career.
Together, they’ve helped make the middle of Iowa’s defense formidable again.
With Woods coaching the outside linebackers and Reid handling the inside guys, the Hawkeyes got out about as much production out of its linebackers as any team in the country in 2013.
Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris anchored a defense that allowed just 18.9 points a game last season and helped Iowa bounce back from a dismal four-win season and reach the Outback Bowl.
Woods and Reid have a new challenge this spring as Iowa begins the process of replacing all three starting linebackers.
”It’s really great to be around him every single day. We work well together,” said the 63-year-old Reid said of his relationship with Woods, who is 36. ”Unfortunately for me, it’s like a father-son (relationship). I’m that old.”
Reid has over three decades of coaching experience with nine different teams – including a stint with the Miami Dolphins in 2008-09 – and yet he still carries himself with the energy of someone Woods’ age.
Reid’s enthusiasm and knowledge have been huge for Woods and his own burgeoning coaching career.
Woods grew up in rural Iowa and was a standout for the Hawkeyes from 1998-2000, helping establish a physical style of play that would later become a hallmark under coach Kirk Ferentz.
Woods played for seven years in the NFL, finishing up with Detroit in 2007. He returned to Iowa City a year later and worked for four seasons as an administrative assistant before being promoted to linebackers coach in 2012.
Reid was brought in as part of a staff overhaul before 2013, and he quickly helped Woods expand his understanding of defensive concepts beyond what he learned under longtime Iowa coordinator Norm Parker and in the NFL.
”He unbelievable, to be honest with you. He’s been great for me as a young coach,” Woods said. ”Just to be able to learn from him and to have someone, a mentor that I can go to.”
For Reid, Woods was invaluable in helping him understand how the Iowa program works under Ferentz, who took over the Hawkeyes in 1999.
Ferentz was facing a tremendous amount of scrutiny, and the program as a whole was under pressure to erase a 4-8 season when Reid arrived last spring.
Woods helped ease Reid’s transition to Iowa, and the pair proved to be crucial in helping Hitchens, Kirksey and Morris thrive as seniors.
”Coaching with LeVar Woods could be really been one of the great times of my life,” Reid said. ”He’s really an outstanding coach with great concepts for the entire game. For me to say that I came in here and could’ve got through last spring and fall without leaning on him … I wouldn’t be telling you the truth.”
Woods and Reid have installed senior Quinton Alston, junior Travis Perry and 17-year-old Reggie Spearman as first-year starters for now, though junior Cole Fisher and redshirt freshman John Kenny will have plenty of chances to unseat them by the opener next fall.
Though Iowa is as unsettled at linebacker as any position, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes can take comfort in knowing that they’ve got a pair of linebacker coaches who’ve proven to work well together.
”It’s really hard to put it into words. You’ve just got to see it. It’s a good partnership,” Alston said. ”It works out for us.”