Coach Paul Rhoads will have plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball to evaluate this spring, but they’ll all be new starters on his defense’s second line.
He’ll be replacing all three starting linebackers, including Jesse Smith, who anchored the second level of the defense with a Big 12-most 135 tackles.
Junior Jacob Lattimer and sophomores A.J. Klein and Jake Knott should enter the spring as the three to watch.
Knott appeared in all 13 games for the Cyclones last season, and leads the new trio with 23 tackles. Klein added 17.
It’s the older Lattimer who might have the biggest learning curve. He played in just five games as a sophomore, and made three tackles. Iowa State gave up over 165 yards on the ground last season (10th in the Big 12), so maybe some new faces in the linebacking corps might not be such a bad thing.
But it’s never easy to replace 135 tackles.