Extra Points: Defensive progress report

By Chris Williams, PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

— Become a smarter football team.

That’s been the big goal of Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads throughout spring football 2012. When a player is intelligent, in return he becomes more confident. When that confidence appears, then comes the speed.

Rhoads has seen this transition with one player in particular over the last two weeks. That’s sophomore linebacker Jevohn Miller.

"Jevohn I thought played faster Saturday than he’s played for the majority of spring workouts," said Rhoads of Miller’s most recent scrimmage performance. "When you’re at linebacker, you’ve got to get to that point where you do trigger all of the time and play aggressive."

With All-Big 12 linebacker Jake Knott missing the spring due to injury, it’s allowed Miller to take virtually all of the reps with the ones at WLB. That experience is paying off now, but should produce major results during Miller’s junior and senior seasons when Knott is playing on Sundays.

"He has benefited from Jake being out and taking all of those reps with the ones and getting thoroughly coached by Wally (Burnham) in the process and I think that the light is starting to burn a little brighter for him and the wattage will be even higher at the end of this week,” said Rhoads.

Miller, who now stands at 6-foot-1, 242 pounds, can tell that he’s making progress compared to spring ball a year ago.

“The game has slowed down and it always will I think," said Miller. "No matter how many years you play, as you get more knowledge of the game, the game is going to slow down for you.”

Miller primarily played special teams during his true freshman season at Iowa State. He’ll start at WLB for the ones during this Saturday’s Cyclone Gridiron Club Spring Game.

Speaking of linebackers, junior Jeremiah George says that he’s learned more throughout the last two weeks of spring football than he previously did over the last two years.

“I haven’t been afraid to take the coaching. In the past, maybe I didn’t want to seem stupid or like I didn’t know the defense. It was clear that I didn’t," said George. "Now, I’ve been taking to coaching and trying to really understand the entire defense so I can know my responsibility but then know that if this is happening, this is happening right behind it.”

At 5-foot-11, 225-pounds, George is currently backing up All-Big 12 linebacker A.J. Klein in the middle.

“I think that if I just play fast, take the coaching, relax and stop having to think so much that I will be a great player in this Big 12 league.”

Sophomore defensive end Cory Morrissey has put on 10 pounds of muscle since he arrived on campus in January. Morriessey, a Iowa Western Community College transfer, now weighs in at 242 pounds. He’s hoping to add another five pounds to his frame by the time fall camp arrives.

“I thought I was a big, strong guy but getting in here I realized that my technique wasn’t the best," said Morrissey. "Coach (Yancy) McKnight actually sculpted it and made it a lot better than what it was.”

Morrissey entered the spring as a fourth-string defensive end. Iowa State has quite a bit of depth at the position, so a redshirt/development year is a possibility.

“He is really a sponge and looking to become that smart player that we want all of our guys to be and because he is that way, he’s productive," said Rhoads. "It’s not a luxury but we’ve got some numbers at the defensive end position. We’ll just have to see how productive he is in August to make a decision if we need or want to go forward with him or if we want to consider a redshirt, which he does have.”

Morrissey, a Gilbert native, is a lifelong Cyclone fan. Saturday’s spring game will not be the first time he’s played in Jack Trice Stadium though.

“It was extraordinary being able to play out there the Shine Bowl but I’m sure this will be two times better because now I’m a Cyclone.”

For more Iowa State football discussion, tune into the Toyota of Ames Spring Game Preview Show from 11:30-1 this Saturday on 1460 KXNO. Tron Smith, Austen Arnaud and Chris Williams will be broadcasting live from the Cyclone Gridiron Club’s annual tailgate just north of the Olsen Building.