Cyclones shift starting linebackers
Hoping for increased speed and athleticism, Iowa State wasted little time in shaking up its defense as it trotted out a new linebacker unit in its Big 12 opener.
Jevohn Miller shifted to middle linebacker Saturday, bumping Week 1 starter Alton Meeks to the No. 2 slot. Filling Miller’s void at the weakside linebacker slot was Luke Knott. Drake Ferch stayed put as the starter at the strongside/nickelback position.
“Jevohn gives us more athleticism, he gives us more speed, he’s a veteran player, he’s been out there and been a part of it,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “He’ll be a guy with reps that will also make good improvement at the Mike linebacker position. There are certain things that will become more natural to him as he goes. He probably made his share of mistakes, but he makes us a faster defense by being able to play in there.”
The defensive unit was made aware of the switch Sunday and spent the week quickly attempting to adjust to the switch. The reasoning, Miller said coaches relayed, was to get the team’s best three linebackers on the field.
“I feel comfortable,” Miller said. “It’s going to take some getting used to. I just have to get more reps at it, that’s the main thing. I told them earlier I thought I did well, I wasn’t playing very hesitant. I knew I couldn’t do that.”
Campos thrown into the mix
After redshirt senior Jacob Gannon suddenly quit the team Wednesday, two days before Iowa State was set to open Big 12 play, his void was filled by youth.
“He played unbelievable,” quarterback Sam Richardson said. “I don’t care if you can look at it on film and he messed up here or there, it’s a huge role guarding Mueller there, an All-Big 12 player. He stepped up and made some big plays for us. He’s obviously a guy that’s going to grow. In a situation we were in losing a right tackle, it’s tough, but he played big for us.”
Rhoads didn’t comment on the sudden departure of Gannon, but the excitement level for Campos is high.
“He was out there battling one of the Big 12’s best, and he was certainly battling and competing,” Rhoads said. “High ceiling on Jake and he’ll continue to improve every single week and every rep and opportunity he gets.”
Richardson with an impressive streak
After Richardson started Saturday’s game 0-for-2, the redshirt junior strung together 14 consecutive completions into the third quarter. Richardson ultimately finished 21-for-30 with 185 yards through the air and another 48 on the ground.
“I thought Sam played very well, I just got done telling him that,” Rhoads said. “He’s probably played — overall, top-to-bottom — his best two games as our starting quarterback the last two games. I think he played this one better than the first one and I fully expect next week to be his best game at quarterback.”
Rhoads looking from more out of running game
While Rhoads left Saturday’s game feeling better about his team’s play, the sixth-year coach said he wants to see more from Iowa State’s running game.
The Cyclones managed only 105 yards on the ground, and it took 37 carries to reach that mark, an average of 2.84 yards per carry. Iowa State missed on several short-yardage plays on third downs and another on fourth down.
“I’m not happy with the rush yards still,” Rhoads said. “We’ve got to get better at the run game offensively. I think you saw better execution of our offense today.”