This time last year we were talking about Joel Lanning as Iowa State’s starting quarterback. Oh, what a difference a year makes. We are still talking about Lanning starting, but not at quarterback. According to the coaches, if the season started today, Lanning would be a starting middle linebacker.
“It’s certainly his job right now to lose,” linebackers coach Tyson Veidt told the media.
I was trying to recall another time where a quarterback has switched to linebacker and I’m drawing a blank, and it’s a first for Veidt as well.
“I can’t think of a time a quarterback came over to play middle linebacker,” Veidt said.
The move may seem strange, but maybe it shouldn’t. Lanning took over the starting QB roll in 2016, but was passed on the depth chart by QB Jacob Park, and Park is expected to start in 2017. Still, coach Matt Campbell recognizes that Lanning, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, is too talented to stay on the sidelines, and has said they would look for other ways to use him. Apparently, they have figured that out.
“It really hasn’t been that big of a challenge,” Lanning said. “I feel like the way I play on offense running the ball and stuff, I was physical. Like I said you’ve just got to run up and tackle someone.”
Lanning also bring a unique perspective to the position that may provide him an advantage come game time, because who else to know what a QB is looking for when he scans the defense before the snap than a former QB? Still, Lanning recognizes that he has to put in the work if he wants to see the field.
“You can’t get enough of watching film on the offensive line and seeing your keys and seeing who you’ve got, whether it’s three receivers, who I’m guarding and stuff like that,” Lanning said. “No matter what position you are you’ve always got to watch film to make yourself better.”
The move to the defensive side of the ball doesn’t mean we won’t see Lanning on offense any more either. After all, when you have a multi-faceted weapon, you try to use it as much as you can. So it wouldn’t be surprising if coach Campbell worked Lanning into some special formations or trick plays just to keep everyone on their toes.
“Coach Campbell told me, ‘If everything works out,’” Lanning said, “‘you’re probably going to be throwing up after all the games because you’re going to be playing so much.’”