FRISCO, Texas — Joel Lanning always had the mentality of a linebacker when playing quarterback for Iowa State. Now he’ll be chasing QBs in and out of the pocket.
After 14 starts at quarterback for the Cyclones the past two seasons, Lanning moved to defense during spring practice and is listed as one of their starting linebackers.
“I wasn’t offended by it. I’m a team player,” Lanning said of the switch. “I don’t need all the, whatever, followers on Twitter and all that stuff. I was just trying to play football and have fun playing with my teammates, win games.”
Former transfer Jacob Park became the primary quarterback late last year, though the 6-foot-2, 220 pound Lanning was still involved in some wildcat formations and had a school record five rushing touchdowns in a win over Texas Tech in November. Lanning, a team co-captain, could still run a few of those plays this year, and possibly play some special teams.
“My main thing is linebacker,” Lanning said. “All the other stuff is fantasy right now.”
On Iowa State’s pre-fall camp depth chart revealed Monday during Big 12 media days, Lanning was listed as one of three starting linebackers. Even though Lanning’s position is marked LB/QB on the roster and his bio sheet, he wasn’t listed among the three quarterbacks on the depth chart – junior Park, senior Kyle Kempt and redshirt freshman Zeb Noland.
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said Lanning has taken a leadership role and excelled on the defensive side.
“I probably was taken back a little bit about just as much growth as he was able to make from practice 1 through 15,” Campbell said. “I thought by practice 13, 14, 15, boy, he looked like he belonged for sure.”
With his quarterback role changed, Lanning met with his coach right after last season. Nothing was mentioned then about playing linebacker, but that conversation changed right before spring practice when the Cyclones needed some depth at linebacker.
The biggest adjustment for Lanning, who last played linebacker in eighth grade, is getting hit all of the time.
“I was a physical runner, but like every single play I wasn’t getting hit, and now I’m getting hit every single play regardless if I like it or not,” he said. “Right now I feel good because it’s the summer. I haven’t been hit for a while. During the spring, yeah, your whole body aches, just like your arm. It’s definitely a lot different.”
Campos said it was fun to watch Lanning mature from “just an athlete out there to what looked like an elite linebacker” by the end of the spring. It was also fun trading hits with him.
“He was bringing it every play,” Campos said. “He’s one of the toughest, most versatile people I know.”
Campbell, going into his second season with the Cyclones, said Lanning has “been a beacon of excellence within our program. You talk about laying a foundation of attitude and effort, Joel was that and has been that.”