George brings dynamism to linebackers


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Linebacker Jeremiah George moves the ball around his opposition during the annual spring game on Saturday, April 14, at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cardinal team defeated the Gold team 13-7.

Dean Berhow-Goll

It has been said by many coaches of the ISU football team that linebacker Jeremiah George came on strongly this offseason.

When coach Paul Rhoads was asked Saturday if there was anyone else besides George who had broken out or shined in the fall training camp, still the linebacker’s name was the first thing out of his mouth.

“Jeremiah George,” Rhoads said. “He continues. He continues to get better, which is very exciting to let us play more three linebacker schemes as we go along.”

George, now a junior, was a player who only managed four tackles his freshman campaign and last year played in all 13 games, but was only able to record one tackle.

Now, Rhoads believes George is a player who can contribute in a major way this season.

“Jeremiah really came on at spring ball,” Rhoads said. “The light goes on at different times [for] different players and the light really started to go on for him this spring. We look forward to that continuing this fall.”

This spring season and now after fall training camp, defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said he has been impressed and is hopeful to get him on the field as much as he can.

“Our problem with that is against spread offenses we’ve got to play a nickel back,” Burnham said. “If you play in your base, you can’t run all of your coverages, so we’ll be playing a lot of down-and-distance situations with him and we’re going to have him out there on the field every snap that we can because he’s a productive football player right now.”

Last year on defense, the Cyclones had Matt Tau’fo’ou playing middle linebacker in their base defense. Then in passing situations, Tau’fo’ou would be replaced by Deon Broomfield or C.J. Morgan in the 4-2-5, which allows A.J. Klein and Jake Knott to play in the middle while still adding depth in the secondary with that extra defensive back.

Even with the amount of offensive firepower in the Big 12 — five schools in the top 13 on offense — and the amount of spread offenses, which promote speed and passing, Iowa State still hopes having George in the middle will allow it to run more out of the base 4-3 and defend those types of offense.

“You’d love to play your base defense first and second down and keep those guys on the field,” Rhoads said. “With Jeremiah being able to do that [at Mike linebacker], A.J. slides out to that Sam linebacker position and we can keep that group on the field.”

Even preseason All-Big 12 linebacker Jake Knott is excited to have George playing between himself and another preseason All-Big 12 player, Klein, to complete the linebacking corps.

“We’ve got the linebackers to do it,” Knott said. “Usually in the past, we didn’t have a guy that could go out there and cover like that, but now that we have three athletic linebackers that are physical and know the defense, we can go into that more, which is great. It gives us a new dynamic.”