Linebacker is an extremely important position, especially in the pass-happy Big 12, and is somewhat of a weakness for the Cyclones headed into 2017. While Willy Harvey continues to play well, and Brian Mills has been a decent run-stopper for the Cyclones. Additionally, Reggan Northrup has consistently improved up to this point in his career, and is poised to earn lots of playing time this coming season as well.
Behind those guys, the cupboard isn’t exactly stocked. Young players such as Bobby McMillen and Tymar Sutton could see significant time in 2017, but there is nothing but youth an inexperience behind them.
With that being said, the Cyclones added a gigantic piece to the puzzle with a player who may well be the steal of this recruiting class in O’Rien Vance, as well as another talented Iowa kid in Jake Hummel.
Where to begin with this kid? The Cedar Rapids George Washington product comes in as the 28th ranked linebacker according to 24/7. Despite that ranking, he was largely under-recruited, almost not recruited at all. His production shot up during his junior season, in which he racked up 101 tackles with 25 (!!!) going down as a tackle for loss. His senior year was also productive, as he recorded 82 tackles with 13 TFL, 7 sacks, and one forced fumble.
Physically Vance is ready to go, as he checks in at 6’3” 235. His upside is incredibly high due to his speed, which is evidenced by his disruptive nature in the backfield. He plays very well near the line of scrimmage, and has a nose for tracking down the ball carrier. Above all, he will bring some big-play potential to a defense in need of a big-time play-maker at the linebacker position.
Coverage is probably the biggest weakness for Vance, largely due to the fact that he spent much of his high school career playing at or near the line of scrimmage. While he has the quickness to cover receivers or a player leaking out of the backfield, he’ll likely need some time to better develop that aspect of his game.
Campbell and his staff are apparently hoping Iowa kids become the face of the program at the linebacker position.. Jake Hummel, a 6’2” 210 pound linebacker from Dowling Catholic, comes in as the 57th best linebacker in the class of 2017 and is a top-10 prospect in the state of Iowa. This kid has been a Cyclone for a long time now, as he committed back in April and his recruitment pretty much stopped there. Jake not only grew up an Iowa State fan, but his dad also wrestled for the ‘Clones back in the day.
Hummel is listed as one of the top inside linebackers in the Midwest, and has all the things you look for in a middle linebacker. He is a hard-hitter and excellent tackler, has a nose for the football, and plays the run well both on the interior and on the outside. Additionally, he is athletic enough to stay with receivers in pass coverage as well.
Jake tends to get lost in the shuffle every now and then on defense, but usually makes up for it with speed and a tremendous tackling ability. Unfortunately, it won’t be quite that easy at the next level. Hummel needs to better shed blocks and take correct angles on outside runs in order to stay with speedy and shifty Big 12 running backs.
2017 Linebacker Outlook
In O’Rien Vance, CMC got himself an impact-type player who will likely be able to contribute early on in his career. Linebackers in the Big 12 need to be athletic and quick to play against air-raid type offenses, but strong enough to stop the run. Vance is both of these things and then some, as he shows a great ability to get into the backfield.
Jake Hummel has the potential to be the tough-nosed middle linebacker that has been missing from this Cyclone defense since the departure of Jeremiah George. If he focuses on getting bigger, stronger, and improving his technique, Jake Hummel is a player that can help Iowa State’s run defense for multiple seasons.