Somewhere along the way, Jevohn Miller realized he was the leader.
Since his arrival to Iowa State in 2011, Miller has always been in the shadow of another linebacker, following their footsteps and going with the status quo. Now, here he was, the Iowa State defense having come off a performance in which it allowed 34 unanswered points to open the season, trying to energize.
The Big 12 opener awaited the Cyclones the next morning and Miller decided to hold a team meeting with the defense.
“We had a great practice and I kind of wanted to make sure everyone else knew we had a great practice,” Miller said. “What I was going to bring out to the field as far as energy, I wanted everybody else to be out there with me.”
Miller has suddenly emerged as a leader of a youthful Iowa State defense, a role that has come as a shock to his coaches.
“I don’t think I would have ever seen Jevohn as a leader, as a guy who would be vocal and as a guy that would step up. That’s not a knock on him; it’s just some guys are and some guys aren’t,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “I wouldn’t have seen that in Jevohn.”
“This is the first time he’s tried to take it on himself to try to lead,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham adds.
The role of a leader has come in part due to experience for the senior linebacker and in another part due to his position. Miller, after Iowa State wasn’t satisfied with its linebacker corps in the season-opener, shifted from the weakside linebacker spot to middle linebacker last week.
There, Miller is in charge of aligning the defense, a position that requires him to be more vocal than he has in the past. The move paid off as the speed and alignment of the defense improved against Kansas State.
“He made a couple mistakes,” Burnham said of Miller’s debut at MLB. “Especially in a couple of open-field plays that he should have made on third-and-long — third-and-10 in particular — but that’s just being able to make a play in the open field, not anything about assignments and not being in the right place.”
Miller, who leads the Cyclones with 20 tackles through the season’s first two games, started the season-opener last season before Luke Knott jumped him on the depth chart. He responded to that adversity by reclaiming his spot this fall.
The key mistake for Miller through his first three seasons at Iowa State was quietly following along.
“I think he’s always depended on someone else,” Burnham said. “He had A.J. [Klein] and Jake [Knott] and then he had Jeremiah [George] and he felt like he didn’t need to, which is a mistake because he should have been [vocal] two years ago.”
Now, during his final season, Miller has taken the reign of the defense.
“I think a lot of it just comes with the role of playing linebacker, you have to be a leader,” Miller said. “I know I’m one of the guys out there with more experience than others and I’m trying to lead by example.”