On Campus: Linebackers Creating a Buzz

The Iowa State campus is buzzing. And no it's not just the copious amounts of students walking down Welch Avenue after their 11th Corona. The Cyclones have a new basketball coach, the weather is warming up, sorority girls are wearing less and less clothing, and VEISHEA is right around the corner. But this buzz is different. It's coming from the Johnny Majors Practice Field and the Bergstrom Practice Facility.

It's coming from the corps of hit-men in the middle of the Cyclone defense. The linebackers are having a tremendous spring and people are starting to notice.

         

Losing Tim Dobbins and Jamarr Buchanan was supposed to set the defense back. They were two seasoned seniors who played a lot of snaps and did everything asked of them. Going into the spring there were several unknowns on defense--especially at linebacker. Matt Robertson and Adam Carper started most of the games in 2005 but there still was some unpredictability with the group. We knew Alvin "Ace" Bowen had the athleticism and Tyrone McKenzie was a force on the practice squad, yet questions remained. They have answered those questions with a resounding pop of the helmet in practice. They have stood out among all of the players in eight practices this spring. They are everywhere. These two along with the improvement of Robertson and the versatility of Carper make this one of the best potential linebacking groups in ISU history.

 

With that thought in mind, let's take a look at some of the previous groups in McCarney's tenure.

 

2005- Matt Robertson, Tim Dobbins, Carper/Buchanan

 

They were the corps on the best defense statistically in 60 years. The Cyclone D never gave up more than 27 points for the first time since the 1930's. Dobbins made several huge plays and Robertson led the Cyclones in tackles. Carper and Buchanan combined to have a decent year at SAM. Buchanan, a former walk-on, is currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was a leader on the defense.

 

2002- Brandon Brown, Jeremy Loyd, Matt Word

 

Seniors Word and Loyd were first and third on the team in tackles. The sophomore Brown was second. Brown had a huge year with 137 tackles and six sacks. Unfortunately, injuries never allowed him to reach that same level in his last two years at ISU. Tyson Smith also had an admirable year rotating between the SAM and RUSH spots.

 

2000- Ab Turner, Matt Word, Derrick Walker, Justin Eilers

 

They were the linebackers on the first bowl team since 1978. Derrick Walker was a converted quarterback after losing the battle to Sage Rosenfels the previous fall. They weren't the flashiest group, but Turner and Walker provided the power and the young Word provided the speed. Eilers was just crazy. Every team needs a crazy person.

 

1998- Dave Brcka, Kip King, Jesse Beckom

This group gave up over 200 yards a game rushing and allowed a 330 yard game to Rickey Williams. However, they will forever go down as the group that beat Iowa to end the "streak."  They contained LaDell Betts to under 100 yards. They also had the first shut-out for ISU since the 1980, beating Ball State 38-0. Brcka was named captain in 1997 as a sophomore, the only other player in McCarney's tenure to receive such an honor as a sophomore--Bret Meyer.      

 

1996- Dave Brcka, James Elmore, Derrick Clark

 

Brcka led the team in tackles as a freshman with 127. That was probably not a good sign. Derrick Clark was a consistent player for Iowa State and did participate in the Blue/Gray game this same year. But teams had their way running the ball for 263 yards a game. Yikes.   

 

1995- Angelo Provenza, Michael Cooper, Tim Sanders, Rudy Rofollo

 

Provenza was the lone senior in this group. Safeties Matt Straight and Mike Lincavage led ISU in tackles, often because teams were galloping into the secondary. Nebraska had 624 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 1995. At least they helped the Cyclones win the first game in the McCarney era over Ohio.

 

Linebackers have always provided ISU with some colorful personalities and some solid players in the McCarney era. The way the coaches are talking this spring, if these guys can reach the high ceiling constructed for them, they could become the best group in McCarney's years at ISU. They are already the most athletic.

 

After Bowen and Robertson combined for a huge hit in a practice this week, they let out a primal yell and did the Canseco/McGwire "Bash Brothers" clash of the forearms.  Now they just have to translate the effort from the practice field to the game field.

 I can't wait to see it happen.


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