Oct 12, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Mike Rose (23) sacks West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Jack Allison (11) during the second quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — When Mike Rose arrived in Ames last season, he immediately impressed coaches with his work ethic and do-anything demeanor.
The young man from Brecksville, Ohio — about an hour’s drive from Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell‘s hometown of Massillon — made an immediate impact by becoming the surprise starter at MIKE linebacker and thriving at the position.
Rose earned first team freshman All-American honors from both The Athletic and the FWAA, but what he’s done as a sophomore might even be more plaudit-worthy.
The 6-3, 228-pounder shifted to SAM linebacker to start the season — and then had to switch back to MIKE when emerging star O’Rien Vance was knocked out of last week’s win at West Virginia.
How long Rose stays back at his old spot hinges on Vance’s status, which Campbell called “probable to questionable” for Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.
Either way, Rose has proven himself to be as versatile as he is powerful and athletic.
“I think Mike has been the storyline and for me has been the storyline for our defense’s success, period, because I think anybody that’s an All-American type football player as a freshman and then is asked to move from his position as a freshman to a sophomore for the betterment of the team, I think that falls in line with the (Joel) Lannings and the (Kyle) Kempts and that humility of doing what’s best for the team even though it’s not what’s best for you,” Campbell said.
Rose’s switch has proven to be salutary on both the macro and micro levels, though.
Through six games, he’s made 41 tackles, which puts him on pace to eclipse last season’s total of 75. He’s surged into the backfield for six tackles for loss and one sack. Last season, he had 9.0 and 1.5 in each of those categories, respectively.
So when Vance is able to return, Rose should continue to shine wherever he lines up on that second level of defense.
“I think then having this unique ability to flip flop (is big),” Campbell said. “He played almost the entire second half (last Saturday) at MIKE linebacker and played incredible. I think it’s just a a testament to what kind of player he truly is. I think the athleticism and I think the football awareness you have to have to be able to do that, because they’re so drastically different spots. It’s not like we’re talking MIKE and WILL. We’re talking MIKE and SAM linebacker — that’s almost like a nickel in a lot of ways, so just a lot of credit to him. He’s been an anchor for us and has really been a steadying force in every way shape or form for this defense.”
ISU’s defense will be sharply tested by Tech’s Jett Duffey-led offense on Saturday in Lubbock.
The Cyclones (4-2, 2-1) are tied for eighth-best nationally in rushing touchdowns allowed (three) and rank 17th in average yards per rush allowed (3.0).
The Red Raiders (3-3, 1-2) are 15th in the country in total offense (489.3 yards per game) and average 4.78 yards per carry.
Duffey has thrown five touchdown passes and rushed for one while spelling injured starter Alan Bowman.
You can tell he’s obviously a dual-threat quarterback; he can use his feet to extend plays,” Campbell said. “He’s got this arm that can make all the throws. He’s got great weapons to get the ball to. I think he’s a super talent, so it’s one of those great challenges for us, again, where that dual-threat quarterback — that guy that can really make you miss in the run game, but also has got the ability to really attack you in the passing game and I think he’s done a really good job.”
It will be job one for Rose and his cohorts to contain Duffey. And if there’s anything he’s demonstrated at two dramatically different linebacker spots in 19 career games, it’s that he’s up for the challenge.
“He’s one of a kind,” ISU defensive lineman Matt Leo said. “He’s someone that every team wishes they had.”
BREECE HALL PRIMED FOR #PROVEIT MODE
Freshman running back Breece Hall set career highs in carries (26), yards (132) and touchdowns (all three of his career) in Saturday’s 38-14 win at West Virginia.
Coach Campbell’s advice to the speedster from Wichita for this week and beyond?
Keep it up.
“I thought he had great vision on Saturday,” Campbell said. “I thought he did a great job of sticking his foot in the ground and getting vertical. I thought those were certainly positives for him. As to the running back (job in general), we asked it last week and I really mean this when I say it — you’ve got to earn it in practice. I think every time you go out there and have success on Saturday and you’ve earned the right to have success on Saturday because of what you did in practice, you certainly start to put a little bit of positivity in your bank a little bit. I think it will be interesting to watch how he handles that, but also, it can be handled in the opposite way for a young player sometimes, too. You think you’re really good and then all of a sudden you don’t do the little things well and next thing you know you’re not playing. I think it’s a great challenge for any evolving player in any program and certainly our program so we’ll see how he responds and see how that whole running back room responds this week.”
ON INJURIES …
Campbell didn’t shed much light on whether safety Greg Eisworth (shoulder) or linebacker O’Rien Vance (concussion-like symptoms) will be back for Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.
Once again, it appears to be a wait-and-see situation until close to kickoff.
“Greg Eisworth practiced a little bit last week towards the end of last week,” Campbell said. “He was at practice yesterday and we’ll have a great evaluation as we get into the thick of this week of where he’s at, but he’s certainly a lot better.”
As for Vance?
“Same thing,” Campbell said. “He was at practice yesterday, so that was really positive for us. I think both guys, right now, are probable to questionable for Saturday’s football game.”