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AMES — Willie Harvey likes to always play fast and physical, but was forced to take things a bit slower in fall camp.
Iowa State’s sophomore linebacker missed the first five days of camp with the flu and couldn’t get any physical reps. For that, his progression within the new defensive scheme was slowed and the learning curve steepened ever so slightly.
Harvey hasn’t seen that as an excuse. It’s just another challenge to overcome.
“It’s tough, but that’s adversity,” Harvey said. “Everybody goes through it so it’s just how you look at it. Everybody has to step up and the next man has to do the job.”
The linebackers have been dinged up with injuries or sicknesses all through fall camp, but never have been without a couple at a time. Harvey dealt with sickness, sophomore Reggan Northrup pulled a hamstring and freshman Tymar Sutton dealt with a broken hand.
None of the injuries were projected to be long term and if there was a silver lining in the absences, it’s the coaches getting to see what in this position group. There isn’t an easy way to replace Harvey, though. He has elevated the profile of the position despite his missed time.
“He’s a fast guy. We’ve got to be able to use him for what we’re doing to our advantage,” said defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. “He plays well, he runs fast and he’s still in a learning mode, too, missing a little bit of time with the sickness. But (he) did a good job out there, again making a few mental mistakes. I’m not great with them, but I’m good with it just because of the learning curve right now.”
Harvey, 6-foot and 225 pounds, still is a youngster in his own right after breaking through as a redshirt freshman. He started eight games and was fourth on the team in tackles (59) and had three tackles for loss with two sacks.
All of that was fine as a starting point, but the Hastings,, Fla. native wants to do more. That means improving his game while bringing his teammates up to speed alongside him.
“Mentally when I get tired I can’t think of myself,” Harvey said. “I’ve got to push everybody else because they’re probably tired, too, and I’ve just got to be that leader for them. They’re looking to me so I’ve got to step up and be that leader for them.”
When Harvey tweaked his hamstring late last year and played more sparingly, Northrup assumed the starting role for the final three games. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder had 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble in 12 games.
Northrup played at the nickel spot last season and said at times he even felt like a defensive end, but has felt more at home as a linebacker in the 4-2-5 and 4-3 schemes. He was even playing safety when he came out of high school, but being versed in many positions has helped him grasp schemes quicker.
“I’m just very aggressive,” Northrup said. “Wrestling back in high school it really helped me and just the aggressiveness really helps with my strength. It helps me go through linebacker as easily as I do.”
Although they are listed as weakside linebackers, coach Tyson Veidt said there could be opportunities where Harvey and Northrup are on the field at the same time. As far as the players are concerned, that’s music to their ears.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing with Willie,” Northrup said. “Our communication is excellent. He was my roommate at one time and once we’re on the field together we play as one core, as one person and make plays.”
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