AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell sees parallels between linebacker Mike Rose, former quarterback Kyle Kempt and former linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning.
Rose was named to Freshman All-America teams by the Football Writers Association of America and The Athletic last season after recording 75 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Then, as a sophomore, he was asked to move from Mike linebacker to Sam.
When No. 23 Iowa State hosts Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, Rose’s ability and humility will be on full display.
“I think Mike has been the storyline of the team, and for me, has been the storyline for our defense’s success — period,” Campbell said. “I think anybody that’s an All-American type football player as a freshman and then is asked to move from his position as a freshman to a different position as a sophomore for the betterment of the team, I think that falls in line with the Lannings and the Kempts of the world.
“They have that humility to do what’s best for the team even though it’s not what’s best for you.”
Rose has been impressive in his move to the outside at his new Sam position. He’s third on the team in tackles with 46, has eight tackles for loss, two sacks, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
But two weeks ago against West Virginia, middle linebacker O’Rien Vance went down with an injury early in the game. For the rest of the game, Rose switched between inside and outside linebacker.
Last week against Texas Tech, Rose played mostly inside.
Campbell is hopeful that Vance will be back against the Cowboys, meaning Rose will be moving back outside.
“I think it’s just a testament to what kind of player he truly is,” Campbell said. “I think the athleticism and the football awareness you have to have to be able to do that, because they’re so drastically different spots, is incredible. It’s not like we’re talking Mike and Will. We’re talking Mike and Sam linebacker, that’s almost like a nickel in a lot of ways.
“A lot of credit to him. He’s been an anchor for us and has really been a steadying force in every way, shape and form for this defense.”
What is the key difference between being the Mike and being in the middle of the action all the time and being what’s essentially a glorified nickel?
Two completely different mindsets.
“When you’re playing outside, I feel like you’re more of a pass-first player in some respects,” the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Rose said. “Even if you read that it’s a run, sometimes you still have to stay out there and be ready for RPOs and all of that stuff. And then at Mike, you’re a run-first player. If you think it’s a run, you have to go.”
What helps Rose is that he gets repetitions at both spots in practice, but there’s still somewhat of an adjustment in a game.
“It’s definitely a change and it can be challenging,” Rose said. “But once I get a couple plays out there at both positions in game, it’s usually pretty smooth sailing from there.”
That’s evidenced by his performance against West Virginia. Rose didn’t miss a single tackle against the Mountaineers according to Pro Football Focus and he ended the game with nine tackles, 0.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
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“Teams are going to make you play in space and challenge your ability to play in space, tackle in space, defend in space,” Campbell said. “I think for us, it says a lot about Mike Rose’s ability, No. 1, to flip from inside to outside and back to inside and now back to outside. You’ve got to be a really good athlete. No. 2, You’ve got to have great awareness. And No. 3, you’ve got to have that ability to run sideline to sideline.
“Michael’s got all those things. His ability for the betterment of our team to go out there and really strengthen an area for us that maybe wasn’t — we didn’t have that right answer to start the season. It was huge for our defensive team and certainly huge for our football team in general. I think it’s allowed us to take an area that we were a little bit unsure about and really strengthen the area for us and give us some really good play out of Sam linebacker.”
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