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2023 Iowa State Football Position Preview: Linebackers

Gerry Vaughn, but then who else...

Welcome to our 2023 position previews, where we will spend the last few weeks before kickoff going over each position group for the 2023 team. We are talking the defensive side of the ball and focusing on the linebacker group.


The Cyclones will enter 2023 without two starting linebackers from last year, O’Rien Vance and Colby Reeder. Vance finished 2022 with 62 total tackles, 10 TFL, 3.5 sacks, in 12 games played. He started all the games he appeared in and was a veteran for the linebacker room. Reeder was a one-year Cyclones after coming to Ames from the transfer portal. Reeder accumulated 38 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 16 solo tackles, in eight games.

New Guys

Incoming pieces in the linebacker room include both freshmen and transfers. Headlining the transfers is Zachary Lovett from Missouri. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker was recruited by ISU head coach Matt Campbell and his staff out of high school. Lovett redshirted in 2021 and saw action in 10 games in 2022, primarily on special teams. Incoming Freshman Jack Sadowsky and Joseph Jean-Louis are also new to the fold. Both youngsters have similar builds, 6’2 and around 220 pounds. Sadowsky has a very good chance to play real snaps for this team or maybe even start game one. Jean-Louis will see some time as well, but Sadowsky has some hype built around him.

Leader of the Pack

The headliner for returning linebackers for Iowa State is Gerry Vaughn. The physical linebacker has been with the Cyclones since he enrolled in 2018. Vaughn will be the vocal leader on the field, especially with the linebackers. He had dealt with injuries for most of his career, but answered the bell in 2022 by playing and starting in all 12 games. He led the team with 71 tackles, was ranked 22nd among Big 12 tacklers with 5.92 tackles per game, and had a career-high 11 tackles against Texas Tech. Without question, Vaughn starting healthy for another season would be huge for the Cyclones and help boost this defense from good to great.

2023 Prediction

The linebacker position in 2023 has a little bit of everything. You have a great veteran starter in Gerry Vaughn, but also some question marks. Carston Marshall is coming off a backup role in 2022 and is expected to contend for a starting role this season. Lovett will enter the fold as a guy who primarily just played special teams.

As the season approaches, the linebacker room seems to be more clear than others, though. My projected starters, as of right now, would be Gerry Vaughn, Carston Marshall, and Zachary Lovett. Jack Sadowsky and Will McLaughlin are next up and will play important snaps for the Cyclones this season. Backups who will see time include Joseph Jean-Louis, Jacob Ellis, and Carson Willich

The linebacker group as of now can be described as solid, but it has a real chance to take a step up and become a good group and a very well-rounded defense. Per usual, it will come down to staying healthy and the youngsters stepping up in their roles and not being afraid of the moment.