116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — The Iowa State football team won't be short on returning experience among linebackers, but that doesn't mean everything is perfect.
As it stands, the linebackers are the group that concerns Coach Matt Campbell the most.
'If you look at the games last year and you say, 'Where is an area that maybe wasn't as good as it could have been?,' that would be the area,' Campbell said. 'I think if we're all real about it and look at the videotape, that's a reality of the situation.
'I think there's a mix of some guys that need to play to what they're capable of playing and some young guys that have ability, they're just young and trying to get better.'
Iowa State ranked 86th last season in rushing defense and allowed 186.6 rushing yards per game primarily in its 3-4 defense. Campbell's Toledo defense was fifth and allowed 115.5 yards per game in a variety of defenses, many of which were based in a four-man front.
The Cyclones have some pieces returning to get those numbers toward Campbell's liking this fall.
Sophomore Willie Harvey started eight games and had 59 tackles last year and has jumped out to the staff through 10 spring practices. Harvey played outside linebacker last season and in a two-linebacker set has learned to become more versatile and play a few different spots.
'His knack for the game and his ability to be decisive and go attack the football and really his love for football has shown up from my end of it,' Campbell said. 'I'm really proud of what he's done in 10 practices now.'
Harvey said his biggest area of growth this winter came from his understanding of how fast the college game, particularly in the Big 12, moves and has tried to address his fundamentals. Linebackers coach Tyson Veidt has preached the importance of an attention to detail in consistently running to the football, which has started to hit home with the 6-foot, 222-pounder.
'I'm just in the books all the time learning new stuff and learning positions,' Harvey said. 'It's really put me ahead of people.'
Iowa State is bringing back five players with a combined 35 career starts, which starts with seniors Jordan Harris and Kane Seeley. Junior Brian Mills and sophomore Reggan Northrup round out other experienced players, with red-shirt freshmen Bobby McMillen III and Marcel Spears Jr. giving some depth through spring drills.
Linebackers on defense are often equated to the quarterbacks on offense in terms of getting the rest of the team on the same page, which is something Veidt has been trying to get his players to do while learning a new defensive concept.
Veidt said he's seen flashes from a handful of different players this spring, but is looking for more consistent play as spring winds down and summer approaches.
'It's important for us right now to have two days consecutively (that are consistent) and then leading into Saturday, which is another scrimmage for us, the ability to perform — like coach has been saying — without coaches on the field in a gamelike atmosphere,' Veidt said. 'That's really important for us right now for sure.'
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