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Mid-Season Grades: Linebackers

One of the best units on the elite Cyclone defense.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

So far, the linebackers have been great in almost every facet of the game. Wille Harvey, Mike Rose, and Marcel Spears have been great as starters, and Jake Hummel and O’Rien Vance have been impressive off the bench. Those five guys are the players who have taken the majority of snaps at linebacker, those same five players have combined for 115 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss. Both of those stats are impressive, but the latter is what stands out to me. That many tackles for loss shows what great pursuit these guys have, shooting the gaps that the defensive line has opened up. To compliment the TFL, they also have 5.5 sacks. The amount of pressure that this unit has been able to put on the quarterback is one of the main reasons that this defense has been so elite.

In pass coverage, they have been good in what they have been asked to do. The scheme Jon Heacock runs has the linebackers covering a lot of the flats and short routes. For the most part, they have been pretty good at limiting receivers to short gains on these short throws. Preventing big plays is about all you can ask from this group in pass coverage and they have done that pretty well at stopping those.

If I am being honest, there is not a lot that the linebackers can improve on other than general stuff. Some of that is what you would expect out of a defense and a team, which is just getting better as the season goes along and playing better as a cohesive unit. Anything extra we get from this core is just gravy.

Grade: A

Coming into the season, the linebackers were probably the biggest question mark on defense. It was going to be tough to replace Joel Lanning and Mackenro Alexander, especially without a sure starter. However, a lot of guys have stepped up and blown away all expectations. The run defense has been great and the pass defense has been pretty good. There a lot of young guys on the defense that are doing this, which is why I give them an A. If this group continues to excel and grow, they could be at an A+ by the end of this season.