AMES — Joel Lanning is about to get more reps than ever before.
After spending his first four years at Iowa State in the quarterbacks’ room, the senior is about to diversify his usage. In the Cyclones’ first spring practice, he got in work as a linebacker.
“You look at the National Football League and what the linebackers look like, they look like Joel,” said Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell. “I think Joel’s one of those guys, that he wants to play, and he should be playing. He’s one of our best athletes on our team.
“If he can help us in different areas that can strengthen our football program, we’re really going to be diligent in finding ways that he can do that for us.”
Sophomore Jacob Park emerged as the starting QB in the second half of last season and Lanning’s role was reduced to a bulky running back with an arm. He started nine games, was 99-of-169 passing for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns.
When Lanning met with Campbell in December, the conversation quickly turned to what the future would hold. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder just wanted to be on the field. Campbell put any concerns to rest, saying there are possibilities Lanning could see time at linebacker, halfback or as a quarterback in special situations.
“I think he can do all those things,” Campbell said. “And those are things that a little bit come natural to him because he knows our offense so well and he can naturally go there. We’re going to see a little bit early on is this something that is a real possibility that he can go over to the defensive side and help us on the defensive side of the football.”
Lanning spent the first part of Tuesday’s practice with the quarterbacks, but traded a green No. 7 jersey for a white one when he joined the likes of Willie Harvey and Reggan Northrup in a hitting drill.
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“I’m going to accept my role,” Lanning said last November. “I’m going to do whatever I can to try to change this program around. I came here for a reason.”
How much Lanning plays on the other side of the ball still is a great unknown, but Campbell made one thing clear: there is a place for him somewhere on the field.
“I said, ‘Well you may be one of our best 11 players and there’s a lot of guys in the country right now that are playing both ways and doing some really good things with it,’” Campbell said.
Nwangwu redshirt undecided
Kene Nwangwu, who injured his Achilles tendon during winter workouts, will be sidelined all spring and into fall but may not be out for the season. A redshirt is a possibility, but not necessarily a forgone conclusion.
Nwangwu had 133 rushing yards and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as a freshman.
“I think if you know me I’m never going to put somebody out there that can hurt himself, and we’re not going to put him out there too early,” Campbell said. “But from Kene’s standpoint he’s out there signaling, he’s in it and, holy cow, I was more nervous about that than anything today that he’s out there doing that.
“I just don’t want him to reaggravate anything. If I know Kene he’ll put himself in position, and if he can be ready he’ll be ready.”
Nerness, Mills no longer with the program
Redshirt freshman defensive end Seth Nerness and redshirt senior linebacker Brian Mills are no longer with the program, Campbell said Tuesday.
Nerness never played in a game and will seek an opportunity to transfer after the season.
Mills, who appeared in 32 games, including all 12 last season with one start, opted to end his football career and enter the workforce upon graduation from Iowa State this spring.
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