April 18, 2009

Spievey knows he needs to keep working

IOWA CITY -- Amari Spievey welcomes a little competition on the football field.

This season, in addition to covering some of the Big Ten's best receivers, the Iowa junior cornerback will have his skills measured against past Hawkeye greats at his position.

Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker has raised the bar for his talented defensive back from Middletown, Conn.

At a press conference Tuesday, Parker said Spievey has a chance to be the best cornerback he's coached in 10 years on the Iowa staff.

"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."

That praise has not been lost on Spievey, but the grounded Hawkeye is taking it in stride.

"It feels good, but he said I 'could' be. I have some work to do," Spievey said Saturday afternoon after Iowa's final practice this spring. "I'm not there yet, so I have to keep working."

That won't be a problem. Football gained added importance in Spievey's life after it was taken away at the Division I level -- for a short time -- following his red-shirt freshman year. He left Iowa for academic reasons and spent the 2007 season playing at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

"It was a wake-up call. It made me realize the opportunities I had here," Spievey said. "When I got (back) here, I wanted to take advantage of my opportunities."

He certainly did that last season, starting all 13 games at cornerback and finishing tied for third on the team in tackles with 68.

Spievey didn't let up one bit this spring. He clearly wasn't giving an inch to Iowa's first-team receivers during the Hawkeyes' scrimmage Saturday.

"How you practice is how you play," Spievey said. "You have to get good habits on the practice field, so you play well in the game.

"I can't waste any day. Every day is important."

Between now and the start of fall practice, Spievey feels he has plenty of improvement to make if he wants to be a premier cornerback.

"I want to work on my footwork and get stronger and faster," he said. "I want to be able to guard anybody in any situation. I want to be a lockdown corner."

He wants to have the other team's best receiver lining up across from him on every play.

He wants his defensive coordinator's words to be proven true.

"It's me and him (the receiver), and it's a big competition," Spievey said. "I love competition. I don't like playing when there's not competition."

Spievey has additional incentive to play well since his running mate at cornerback, Bradley Fletcher, appears ready to begin a professional career.

Last year, Spievey learned a lot from Fletcher.

"Bradley taught me to play every play hard," Spievey said. "He was always going like he had a battery on his back. He always had energy."

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