Spring practices are a great time to experiment with some things before you start preparing for fall camp. Right out of the gates, there was no bigger experiment than Joel Lanning moving to the linebacker position. That’s among the three main things to watch on Saturday during the 2017 Iowa State spring game. Game time is set for 1 p.m. and you can pick up this year’s football poster while you’re there too!
Here’s a few things you should watch for if you’re in the stands...
Joel Lanning at Linebacker
There’s been no bigger story than Joel Lanning switching to linebacker this spring. He has the size and athleticism to play the position, but it’s no easy task to move from quarterback to a major position on the other side of the ball. As it stands right now, Lanning is the starter at the MIKE linebacker position. I’m not sure if we should be surprised or not, but given the lack of depth at the linebacker position, the experiment is definitely worth a shot.
The question is, how well can Lanning read and react to the plays in the offensive backfield? Does he tackle well? Will he be able to get to his spots in time and blow up the opposing team’s plays? All are questions that will look to be answered. They may not be answered on Saturday, but will Lanning show us enough and play as well as the coaches have said he has to make believers out of us fans? Stay tuned.
Jacob Park’s Progression
One of the big stories out of spring practice has been the progression of Jacob Park. He finally has some continuity after moving around early in his collegiate career, and if what the coaches have been saying is true, he is going to step up his game in the 2017 season.
Keep an eye on Park when he is out on the field on Saturday. Quarterbacks thrive when the game has slowed down and they become more comfortable in a system. With more time with the coaches this off-season, we should see some differences in his game. I know he won’t be under much pressure due to the rules for the spring game, but how he manages the offense will be something that pops out on Saturday afternoon.
Defensive Line vs. Offensive Line
One of the positions that goes full throttle in a spring game is the lines, and it’s no secret that Iowa State had depth issues on both lines last season. Coach Campbell and company recruited both position groups hard in the 2017 class and we’ll get to see a few of those recruits on Saturday.
Ray Lima will make his debut in the cardinal and gold after quickly being penciled in as a starter on the defensive line. Another JUCO player is Matt Leo, who has the physical features to be a big time player in the Big 12, but is just a little behind in reps. If we get to see some of his upside on Saturday, it make the defensive line outlook much more encouraging for 2017.
#Cyclones DL coach Eli Rasheed said JUCO transfer Ray Lima is pencilled in as a starter. Said they want him to play as much as he can.— Joseph Hoyt (@JoeJHoyt) March 28, 2017
Others to keep an eye out on the defensive line are the Bailey brothers. JaQuan played as a freshman this past season and showed some promise, but a slow spring and some nagging injuries have slowed down his development a bit. His brother, Josh, has worked his way into the discussion on the defensive line as well.
Sean Foster has been making his case for the starting left tackle spot all spring and right now it appears he has a firm hold on it. The other tackle spot will likely fall into the hands of Jake Campos once the staff feels he’s ready to be fully inserted into the lineup. As for now, you’ll see Sean Foster (LT), Robbie Garcia (LG), Julian Good-Jones (C), Oge Udeogu (RG) and Bryce Meeker (RT) roll out with the first team on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how well they can manage the line of scrimmage.
Which team - offense or defense - controls the line play? That’s what I’ll be looking for during the game.
The buzz surrounding Chase Allen has been around since he set foot on campus. Minor setbacks pushed him into redshirting this past season, and now we will get our first look at him on Saturday.
With Allen’s size and athleticism, he’s poised to give opposing defenses nightmares. What will be interesting to see is how the staff will want to use him. There’s no question he will see the field in 2017, but will we see him primarily as a receiving tight end? Or will he develop into an all-around tight end that can play in short-yardage situations on the line too? We should get an idea of what his role may be on Saturday afternoon.