With the spring practice session halfway over, the Iowa State Cyclones have some idea about what their team will look like in 2013. More importantly, they have an idea of where they still need to improve. Iowa State will be facing a major rebuild on defense after losing eight seniors, including five of their front seven defenders. They get young and inexperienced in a hurry on the depth chart, particularly at linebacker which has been a point of strength for the team in recent years. Iowa State needs someone to step up as a leader and act as a mentor to the rest of the defense, and senior linebacker Jeremiah George could be the man for the job.
George returns as the middle linebacker after learning under the experienced linebacker tandem of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein and hopes to follow in their footsteps as productive leaders of the defense. He already has the “productive” part down pretty well after finishing third on the team in tackles last season, finishing the year with 87 tackles, including three tackles for loss. He admits that Knott and Klein “babysat” him for the last couple of years and he has focused his spring on stepping back and teaching some of the younger linebackers.
He will likely be leading linebackers Jared Brackens and Jevohn Miller with the first team defense next fall. Both Brackens and Miller have been impressive this spring, capitalizing on their opportunities to become featured parts of the defense in 2013. Brackens finished 2012 with just seven tackles in 10 games and lacks the physicality to really stonewall blockers, but he possesses excellent athleticism that he uses to get out of trouble and make plays. His speed has been a pleasant surprise and could serve him well if he harnesses it next fall.
Miller has been in a backup role the last two seasons, but did appear in all 13 games a year ago, accounting for 22 tackles. He has sat and watched and is now ready to spring into action and seize this opportunity to crack the starting lineup. Both juniors are untested as far as playing significant snaps, but George will work with them to get them up to speed quickly this summer and into fall camp.
Overall, the Iowa State defense is faster and more athletic than it was last season. However, that athleticism won’t do them any good if the defense is caught out of position or loses their assignments. George will have a lot of responsibility put on his plate in 2013 as he becomes the leader of the defense, charged with bringing along a bunch of new faces with unproven track records. Can he be the leader they need for the Cyclones to find success next season?