Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football position preview: Linebackers have stars and depth

Marcel Spears and Mike Rose will return, but the Cyclones won't be afraid to rotate

Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose runs back a fumble for a touchdown during the second half of a game against Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose runs back a fumble for a touchdown during the second half of a game against Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

AMES — Iowa State linebackers coach Tyson Veidt has been seeing a lot more of his players in 2019.

On May 30, in a pickup basketball game with the other coaches, Veidt came down with a rebound. When he landed, his knee wobbled and he tore his ACL and meniscus.

He got his meniscus worked on already and he’s putting off the ACL surgery until “whenever.” He’s been in the training room daily with his players getting treatment

“I’ve been in the training room a ton, so that’s been fun being with the guys more than normal,” Veidt said. “I’m down in the training room two or three times a day with those guys. It’s fun to see those guys in a different light, and they’re able to see me in a different light as well. I’m able to relate with a couple of them with this specific injury. I appreciate it a little bit more.”

Veidt joked that he’s old and unathletic and that’s why he tore his knee apart. Luckily for him, his players are young, spry and some of the best linebackers in the Big 12.

Iowa State returns preseason all-Big 12 linebacker Marcel Spears and 2018 first-team freshman all-American Mike Rose.

Spears, a senior, is the unquestioned leader in the linebackers room. He was fifth on the team in tackles last season with 69 and fourth in tackles for loss with eight. He also had five quarterback hurries and three pass breakups.

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Spears also has a flair for the dramatic. He has two career pick-sixes, both against Texas Tech (one in 2017 and one in 2018). Spears had two interceptions last season and forced a fumble.

“He sharpened his game because he really took the summer to study and you can tell because he’s anticipating things better and things are happening slower to him and he’s reacting faster to things,” Veidt said. “That part of it gives him a chance to help guys on the field before the ball is snapped. That’s what we really need for him.”

Iowa State’s linebackers are relatively young. Middle linebacker Rose is a sophomore and whoever starts at the other outside linebacker spot, whether it’s Will McDonald or Chandler Pulvermacher, will be a redshirt freshman.

“Marcel did a great job last year with Mike, obviously,” Veidt said. “He’s a calming presence for those younger guys because he’s a great human being.”

Pulvermacher tries to soak up as much information as he can from Spears.

“You can’t put into words how much you learn from a guy like Marcel,” Pulvermacher said. “He has boatloads of wisdom and you can never learn enough from him.”

Under Spears’ tutelage last season, Rose had a phenomenal freshman campeign. Rose had 75 tackles, including nine for a loss. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown against Kansas State that spurred an Iowa State comeback win.

Coach Matt Campbell and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock substitute often on the defensive side of the ball to keep guys fresh. Jake Hummel, Spears’ backup, played in all 13 games and recorded 31 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Cedar Rapids native O’Rien Vance played in 11 games in reserve for Rose and tallied 24 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

“For the most part, in every game but a couple, we played six or seven guys at linebacker,” Veidt said. “We’re going to need as many as we can get. That’s our goal, to build the most depth we can at linebacker because we’re going to need them all. Then, hopefully down the stretch when you get into November, we’re as healthy as we can be and we’re all ready to go.

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“We hope we’re not missing a beat when O’Rein is in at mike and Mike is out and Jake is in at will and Marcel is out. That’s what we did a lot of times last year and it didn’t really matter the situation, we were putting those guys in and they were playing in big moments.”

The reserves try to make the transition as seamless as possible from starters to backups.

“No one is out there to play over another person,” Hummel said. “We’re just going in to fill in where we can and pick up where the other person left off without any hesitation or set back.

“I think that’s something that defines our defense. The next guy in can do just as well as the first guy.”

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