There was some surprise for Mitchell Meyers when he showed up for a Sunday practice and was instructed to head onto the field at defensive tackle.
Meyers, a redshirt sophomore on Iowa State’s defensive line, had played inside in the Cyclones’ speed package for the first two weeks, and assumed he was headed to the field for that particular reason. That’s the message he got from coaches Stan Eggen and Shane Burnham.
“Oh, yeah, we’re going to get more reps at that,” the coaches told him.
The first play call was for a base defensive package, which typically would put Meyers on the edge. The coaches instructed Meyers to remain at three-technique, and that's when he began to wonder.
“I was like, ‘This isn’t the speed package,’” Meyers said. “It kind of caught me off guard. I was like, ‘All right, we’ll see how this goes.’ I’m still getting the hang of it, so it’s a work in progress.”
Meyers started at defensive tackle for Iowa State against Iowa, and topped the team’s depth chart at the position Monday. While the 6-foot-4, 262-pound lineman is somewhat undersized, he provides a different dynamic for a defensive line that tallied four sacks and more pressure upon shifting Meyers inside.
The move to three-technique remains a work-in-progress for Meyers, who was originally recruited to Iowa State as a defensive tackle only to spend his early time with the program on the outside.
“It’s definitely a different mentality,” Meyers said. “You have to get off the ball every time, because as soon as the ball is snapped you’re in someone’s face. Like I said, there’s not as much space, so you can’t get ready for a play.”
Meyers figures to be at defensive tackle for the immediate future, offering a different look inside as Iowa State begins play against fast-paced Big 12 opponents, including the nation’s top and quite possibly quickest offense in Baylor this weekend.
“We get a little bit better penetration out of him,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said of Meyers. “He’s a little bit quicker, he gets up field a little bit faster, we can move him a little bit quicker than some of those big guys. It’s just the small things he helps us do.”
Moving Meyers inside has put Trent Taylor at the left defensive end position opposite right end Cory Morrissey. Coach Paul Rhoads said the shift should also allow ends Darius White and Dale Pierson to get more action on the edges.
Meyers may still be adjusting, but nobody has heard him question the move.“To be coachable and put the team on your back and do what’s best for the team [is great],” Morrissey said. “He probably wanted to stay an end, but you wouldn’t know that from him. He wants to play tackle now, because the coaches told him to play.”
“He took one for the team,” Burnham added. “He’s a little undersized, but he’s accepted the challenge. He’s willing to play for the team, and he was impressive last time we played a game. He made some plays and made some other people make some plays because of things he did taking care of his gap or rushing the passer.”
Meyers has 11 tackles this season through three games and leads the team with three hits on opposing quarterbacks.
“I’d say I’m probably a little more athletic than some of the other guys, so I think that helped me,” Meyers said. “If I ever got out of my gap I could get back in there just by using some athleticism.”