After my last doom and gloom article about the possible vortex of suck that will be the Iowa State defensive line in 2010, it's now time to focus on the linebackers - light on experience, but not without actual hope and talent. The Cyclones graduate all three starters, including Nebraska game hero Jesse Smith, but return two guys that are expected to start for the next three years. You all know who I'm going to say are the projected starters going into the fall - two guys from the upper Midwest, and, predictably a Tongan native.
SAM: A.J. Klein (So.)
MIKE: Matt Tau'fo'ou (Sr.)
WILL: Jake Knott (So.)
This was the group of starters during the spring game, and it should be the expected starting group going into the fall. None of the three saw a TON of action during 2009, but Klein and Knott played quite a bit in a backup role, with Knott seeing the most time. AJ and Jake should be the cornerstones of the Cyclone defense for the next three years and are reportedly rapidly acclimating to the pace of the game at the Big 12 level. Tau'fo'ou, (tuh-foe) aside from giving opposing SID's and staffers a momentary stroke, has the least experience. His size (5-10, 246) doesn't seem to paint him as the fastest guy on the field, so in passing situations, it's more than likely he'll be substituted out in a nickel package. That being said, Wally Burnham seemed to favor going nickel more and more last year with Ter'ran Benton in as an extra member of the secondary, so two linebacker sets could be occurring more often this season
Jacob Lattimer (Jr.)
Preston Kaufman (RSSr.)
Kevin Hamlin (RSSo.)
Carl Kirpes (RSFr.)
Grant Stonerook (RSFr.)
Russell Wright (So.)
Not much experience here, with Lattimer and Hamlin as the only scholarship backups. Lattimer was the only one to even really see any time this previous fall. Truth be told, the future starters at the position are more likely to be in the next group...
I've included Bennett in this group, as at 6-2, 205, there is talk of him moving up to linebacker, but the staff made sure to focus on linebackers in the last class, and have brought in some of the most impressive of the class at linebacker. Two of these guys may very well play as freshmen simply to have them gain experience as backups, but chances are the eventual replacement for Tau'fo'ou is in this group. Jeremiah George is often noted as the most ready, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him playing some as a true freshman.
While this group may actually be less experienced than the defensive line (shudder), the presence of actual talent, plus what appear to be at least two capable linebackers in Klein and Knott, gives me hope that we may not have the worst linebackers in the conference.