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Big Ten Football Top 150 Players: No. 96, James Morris, Iowa LB

IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 30:  Line backer James Morris #44 of the the University of Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after tackling running back Edwin Baker #4 of the Michigan State Spartans during the first half of play at Kinnick Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 37-6 over Michigan State. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
David Purdy/Getty Images
Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJuly 3, 2012

No. 96: James Morris, No. 44, LB, Iowa
2011 Stats: 110 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one INT


Strengths

Morris was Iowa's leading tackler last season with 110 (fifth in the Big Ten in tackles per game), and his instincts at middle linebacker are some of the best in the conference. He's fast for the position, which gives Iowa's defense some versatility as he moved to outside linebacker to finish last year. He's back at MLB this season.

 

Weaknesses

Morris is "only" 6'2" and 230 pounds, and often in his first two seasons he played small, too; his tackle numbers are high enough and his tackling ability is sure enough, but he can get swallowed up in the run game pretty easily, and he's not strong enough to prevent yards after contact on a consistent basis. Also, he's basically a non-factor in pass coverage, and that's a stark contrast to the better linebackers Iowa has had recently.

 

2012 Prediction

110 tackles should be a baseline prediction for Morris, who should be even better prepared for the rigors of the physical Big Ten offensive fronts. Where Morris should really show improvement, though, is in his pass defense; if he can work better in space, Iowa can stop third-and-long more reliably and turn an extra game or two in its favor.

Count on that happening.

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