Iowa CITY, Iowa - Quinton Alston felt comfortable with his decision to attend Pittsburgh. It sat relatively close to his South Jersey home and he connected with head coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff.
Then, as happens every year across the country, Alston's world was turned upside down.Pitt fired Wannstedt and hired Michael Haywood, who lasted less than three weeks before being relieved of his duties following a domestic violence charge.
Alston decided to re-open his recruitment. He chose Iowa without having visited the school.
Two weeks ago, the true freshman found himself on the field against ULM. He was listed on this week's Hawkeye depth chart as the back-up middle linebacker.
"He had an injury a year ago; a little slow coming in," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "As camp went on, he gained ground and lost a little bit of weight, which has probably helped him a little bit.
"He has a great attitude and he's a guy we really were high on recruiting, felt fortunate to get him; a good personality. He's doing a good job."
Iowa's linebacker position has dealt with attrition through graduation, injury and transfer during the last year or so. James Morris became the starter in the middle after the position was hit hard by health issues in 2010.
A few weeks ago, senior Bruce Davis, the No. 2 MLB at the time, left the team for personal reasons. That opened the door for Alston, who also could start to see reps on special teams going forward.
Scout.com ranked Alston the 37th best outside linebacker nationally in the 2011 recruiting class. He held scholarship offers from Boston College, NC State, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, among others.
When Alston decided to de-commit from Pitt, Iowa moved in.
"I was out there seeing somebody, and stopped by the school (Timber Creek Regional on a) Friday morning," Ferentz said. "I was on my way up to see somebody in the northeast, and on the way to the airport we stopped. It was snowing.
"Quinton and his mom came up to the school and we had a real good visit. At that point, he indicated he was maybe thinking about rethinking his choice."
Ferentz invited Alston and his mother out to Iowa City for an official visit. The family decided they would commit to the Hawkeyes before the trip. Quinton announced for Iowa on Jan. 10 but told the coaches right after their meeting.
"They called us up that night and said they were going to visit," Ferentz said. "They might even have committed before they visited come to about it. In fact, they did that day, right. That was a good day, good Friday."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Alston missed all but two games of his senior year after an injury. He earned second-team, all-state honors as a junior.
Ferentz prohibits true freshmen from speaking in the media. Alston explained why he liked Iowa after his commitment.
"My mom, me and my coach talked with them for a while," Alston said about his visit with the Iowa coaches in January. "Then the three of us went out to talk about it in the hall and I told them it felt right. The passion that Coach Ferentz has for Iowa, you can feel that."
Alston played all over the field as a prep player, including running back. He knew Iowa wanted him in the middle of their defense, however.
"They're bringing me in as a Mike," Alston said in January. "I can play wherever they need me. They've not guaranteed me anything in terms of playing time, which I like. I'm going to come in to compete and we'll go from there."
Alston said he didn't need to visit Iowa before committing because it felt right when talking with the coaches.
"I know people are going to criticize me for that," he said. "But what building or stadium am I going to see that's going to change my mind? It's a Big Ten school. Everything is top notch. They have great academics. I did my research. I know where I'm going."
This week, he'll head back near home as the Hawkeyes play at Penn State.