116 3rd St SE
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AMES — If Iowa State’s tight ends, with their veteran leadership and impressive production, are the rock of the offense, then the linebackers are the boulder of Iowa State’s defense.
Mike Rose has started since arriving on campus. O’Rien Vance has gotten significant playing time since his redshirt freshman season and has been a starter from his sophomore season on. Jake Hummel has played since he was a true freshman on special teams and has been a key linebacker since his sophomore season.
All three are seniors for the Cyclones in 2021 and all three are all-Big 12 caliber players.
But only Rose has made an all-Big 12 team — the other two have just been honorable mentions. That means linebackers coach Tyson Veidt has some motivation ammunition for the group.
“We feel like we have a lot of room to grow,” Veidt said. “They all bring their own characteristics and qualities to the game, but we have a ways to go yet.”
Hummel was one of the most consistent producers for Iowa State last season. He never did anything flashy, but he recorded at least six tackles nine times. Hummel tallied 77 total tackles, the second most for the Cyclones.
“He’s been a leader for us,” Veidt said. “He played his best football at the Fiesta Bowl and that’s really encouraging for us. He’s trying to be the Big 12 Player of the Year, in my opinion. That’s how he’s working. We’re starting to notice that every day.”
Speaking of the Big 12 Player of the Year, Rose led Iowa State in tackles with 96.
The first-team All-America linebacker also led all linebackers in interceptions with five.
Iowa State defensive backs coach Matt Caponi joked during the spring that Rose stole all of his guys’ interceptions last season. But he knows he can’t be too mad about it.
“If he ends up with 15 (interceptions), that’s OK, too,” Caponi said.
While the individual success and accolades are great for Rose, he wants to make sure his production translates to helping Iowa State raise its defensive level higher.
“The guys that were most excited about Mike getting the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award were O’Rien Vance and Jake Hummel,” Veidt said. “If you were to ask Mike if that award was the end of the road, he would not agree with that. He believes there's more for him and especially us as a defense to accomplish.”
While Rose and Hummel are two hallmarks of consistency, Vance has a little more ebb and flow from game-to-game.
On any other linebacking crew, Vance would be considered consistent but when the two guys on either side of you are as consistent as they come, even a little inconsistency gets noticed.
Vance, a former Cedar Rapids Washington prep, was third on the team in tackles with 68 but he only recorded one sack, a season after collecting 6.5.
Veidt would like to see Vance return to his pass-rushing form a bit more in 2021.
“Our goal is to complement our other linebackers as well as the other guys on the defense,” Veidt said. “O’Rien has been a good pass rusher for us but he’s still continuing to work on it.”
Either way, Vance still is a productive linebacker for the Cyclones, someone who has made plenty of key plays in key moments. He was the Fiesta Bowl Defensive Player of the Game.
The top three tacklers last season — and they all are back. That’s not a bad place to start for the Cyclones.