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Player to Watch: Joel Lanning

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The senior captain will be key to slowing down the OU offense.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Akron David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I highlighted the offensive line as the key to the game. I was right, but in a very undesirable way. The offensive line looked consistently outmatched by Texas’ talented defensive line, and consistently forced Jacob Park to scramble for his life. Park did make some of his own mistakes, but many of them could have been mitigated with better offensive line play.

This weekend, Joel Lanning will prove to be a key piece of a defense hoping to stop the best offense in college football and its Heisman front-running quarterback. Baker Mayfield has been in college long enough to remember when Perry Ellis was just a redshirt freshman for Kansas back in the 80s, and his experience is always on full display. What makes Mayfield particularly dangerous his ability to buy time with his feet and be extremely accurate when throwing on the run.

Joel has been much better than anyone expected so far this season, being one of the best open tacklers on team and consistently bottling up interior runs near the line of scrimmage. On Saturday, Joel will probably be asked to spy the Oklahoma quarterback on more than a few occasions, charging him with the duty of containing the quarterback.

In the running game, Oklahoma likes to use misdirection to gain the edge on outside runs, so Joel’s development as a linebacker will be put to the test. He’ll need to take solid pursuit angles to ball-carriers and prevent Oklahoma’s talented running backs from breaking into the second level. Limiting the running game and keeping Baker Mayfield contained will allow the Cyclone secondary to focus on stopping Oklahoma’s outstanding deep passing game. If Joel Lanning can take another step further in his development and force Baker Mayfield to beat them from the pocket, the secondary might have a fighting chance.