116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State might not have a more ready-to-go position than linebacker.
The Cyclones have, at minimum, an all-Big 12 starting linebacker at all three spots and they have a proven backup at all three positions, too.
The group is led by All American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Mike Rose.
Rose led the nation in interceptions by a linebacker last season with five. And it should be mentioned his pass-coverage ability isn’t usually the first thing that gets brought up.
He’s a do-everything linebacker who plays well in space and excels at making one-on-one tackles.
He led the Big 12 in tackles with 96. He also had 10.5 tackles for loss and six QB hurries.
Coach Matt Campbell has been effusive in his praise of Rose throughout the years. Those feelings haven’t waned.
“What you really appreciate about Mike is when the team needed him most, he always came up with the play,” Campbell said. “He was always there for the stop or made the play. He was always where he needed to be, when he needed to be there.
“I think about what Mike does to maximize his full potential in terms of work ethic, attitude, effort, how he practices. I love Mike because he’s the same guy no matter what day of the week it is. If you came to Tuesday or Wednesday practice, it’s the same guy that you see on Saturday. I’ve always felt that the great players and elite players that I’ve coached, they have that same unique trait.”
Rose has been a near-elite linebacker since he stepped on the field as a true freshman against Iowa and recorded 11 tackles.
Since then he’s only gotten better even though teams have started to game-plan for him.
“Mike understands that it’s not going to get any easier for him,” Campbell said. “Teams are going to try and formation against him or go away from him. There are going to be unique challenges that come his way. The better he gets, the more teams will plan for him. That will challenge him to be his best. Mike has taken that challenge.
“What he looks like right now compared to what he looked like last year is night and day. That’s a total credit to Mike Rose. It’s all about, ‘How do you take another step forward?’ with him. I’m really proud of what he’s done to prepare for this fall.”
Rose’s running mates are middle linebacker O’Rien Vance and outside linebacker Jake Hummel.
“What O’Rien Vance has done — and you can’t talk about O’Rien without talking about Jake Hummel because those two are outstanding,” Campbell said. “Mike gets a lot of credit but when you really sit back and study the video tape, the consistency that those two have played with is nothing short of exceptional.”
Hummel was second on the team last year with 77 tackles and Vance was third with 68.
Two seasons ago, when JaQuan Bailey was injured, Vance was leading the Big 12 in sacks until he suffered his own injury.
Backing up the trio is another, younger, trio.
Gerry Vaughn, Aric Horne and Dae’Shawn Davis all saw significant time last season as special teamers and key reserves, playing in every game.
That proven depth, coupled with the sheer quality of the starters has the position group rated as the second best in the nation by Phil Steele.
“They can all drop into coverage, they can all run sideline to sideline and they can all apply pressure,” Campbell said. “They all have a lot of game experience that has allowed them to raise themselves physically and mentally.”