2019 Iowa State positional breakdown: Linebacker

Linebacker Marcel Spears Jr. tackles a Baylor Bear during their game against Baylor on Nov. 10, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones finished the first half 17-0 against the Bears.

Jack Shover

As one of the few Iowa State position groups without a position battle heading into fall camp, the Cyclones’ linebacker corps is led by senior Marcel Spears Jr.

Outside of Spears, Iowa State has established sophomores Mike Rose and Will McDonald as starters at linebacker with several experienced players in reserve roles.

In Iowa State’s 3-3-5 defense, Iowa State’s linebackers need to be able to shed blocks or slip through holes in the run game while also being able to cover players in the passing game.

Marcel Spears Jr.

One of three Iowa State players on the Nagurski Trophy watch list, which is given to the nations top defender, Spears will be Iowa State’s starting weakside linebacker.

A redshirt senior, Spears has been a two-time Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection the last two seasons and last season, Spears had the fifth most tackles on the team with 69, and was fourth on the team in tackles-for-loss with eight.

Spears was also a great defender in the passing game and forced two interceptions, including one he returned for a score.

Like in 2018, Spears will be great in the run game and will be able to have an effect on opponents in the passing game.

Mike Rose

Rose made an immediate impact for the Cyclone defense and started all 13 games for Iowa State at middle linebacker.

En route to being an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection last season, Rose had the fourth most tackles on the team at 75, as well as nine tackles-for-loss, which was the third-best for Iowa State.

Rose will again be a major factor in the run defense and will bring even more physicality to the Iowa State defense.

Will McDonald

Coming into Iowa State as a true freshman last season, McDonald was a three-star defensive end and ended up appearing in four games for the Cyclones at the position. Despite playing in four games, McDonald was still able to redshirt the 2018 season.

In his limited action, McDonald recorded three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

After switching to linebacker in the offseason, McDonald sits atop the depth chart at strongside linebacker.

Chandler Pulvermacher

Like McDonald, sophomore Chandler Pulvermacher played in four games for Iowa State last season as a true freshman and was able to earn a redshirt. In those four games, Pulvermacher wasn’t able to register a statistic.

A three-star high school recruit, Pulvermacher was a Second Team All-State selection in Wisconsin as a senior. During his senior season, he had 57 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, three interceptions and five pass breakups.

With McDonald ahead of him on the depth chart for the starting strongside role, Pulvermacher will see action as a reserve for the team.

Jake Hummel

Junior Jake Hummel played in 13 games last season as a reserve backer and was able to accumulate 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Heading into next season, Hummel will be Spears’ primary backup at the weakside linebacker position.

O’Rien Vance

Vance, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, primarily played in a reserve role for the linebacker corps and appeared in 11 games during the 2018 season.

As a redshirt freshman, Vance had 24 tackles and 4.5 tackles-for-loss.

Like Hummel and Pulvermacher, Vance will serve in a reserve role behind Rose at middle linebacker.

Other breakdowns:

Wide receiver 

Running back

Defensive tackle/Nose tackle

Tight end

Defensive end