While there’s more hope for the linebackers than the defensive line, Iowa State will come into the season without a pure dominating linebacker that they’ve been used to for the past three years.
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It’s hard to know exactly what to expect in any of these positions. There should be senior leadership on the strong and weak sides, but the middle portion is a complete toss up with a redshirt freshman currently in the post-spring practice depth chart.
Of course, don’t forget that Luke Knott is continuing to heal from an injury he faced at the halfway point of last season. There could be a little bit of switchup once he’s back on there. Perhaps he could get a nod at one of the other positions instead of SLB, but either way that will be the strongest position in the linebacker unit.
September 14, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Luke Knott (21) hits Iowa Hawkeyes quarterbackJake Rudock
(15) at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE
Player to watch: Jevohn Miller is one of three returning starters, and hopefully he avoids a start like he had last season. Miller was benched in the season opener against Northern Iowa, and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham was incredibly down on him with his terrible work habits and not practicing hard.
Now, he’s taking the game seriously for the first time. Miller took over for injured Knott and hasn’t looked back. Hopefully there won’t be any setbacks as the Cyclones can’t afford any of them on defense this year.
Newcomer to watch: Alton Meeks, who currently sits as the starter at middle linebacker, was highly sought after in recruiting. The linebacker from Orlando, Florida, checks in at 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds. He passed up offers from Florida State, South Florida, Michigan State , Cincinnati, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, and more. Meeks could have been one of the rare true freshmen that stepped up last season but was instead redshirted.
Knott has the talent to pick up where his older brother left off, but his injury will no doubt have lingering effects heading into this season.
He also has some quarterback experience in college. So, hey, if things ever end up getting really bad at the QB position…
Projection: Like we’ve said before, the defensive unit becomes stronger the further you get away from the ball. There’s more experience in the linebacker core, but someone will have to emerge as the leader. Knott has the talent to pick up where his older brother left off, but his injury will no doubt have lingering effects heading into this season.
Until then, can Miller kick his game up to the next level and become a leader? Is Drake Ferch ready to make an impact if he does become an opening day starter or will Jared Brackens, who started in all 12 games last year, ultimately win that role because of his suspension?
As you can see, there’s a ton of questions heading into the season. But there’s potential that this portion of the defense can exceed expectations.