It didn’t take long for Iowa State freshman A.J. Klein to make an impression on his new coaches.
The 6-1, 234-pound linebacker from Kimberly, Wis., had a big first day Thursday as the Cyclones’ opened preseason camp with an afternoon practice.
“He stuck out to me,” Coach Paul Rhoads said. “I went over to (defensive coordinator) Wally (Burnham) with about 10 minutes left to go in practice and said, ‘If there’s any guy on defense I’ve noticed today it was A.J. Klein.”
Linebacker is an area where Rhoads said he’ll be giving some younger players a chance to prove themselves.
Klein worked with the second-string defense during team and passing drills.
He even made an interception and returned it for a score.
“I could have made that interception,” he said. “It’s nice to get one thrown in between your numbers every now and again. But he caught it and finished it.
“He made a lot of plays. He got off blocks, he tackled with great angles, he played with his knees bent and didn’t appear fatigued once.”
That wasn’t the case with the rest of the team.
Rhoads said it was a typical opening day of practice.
“It’s been a long time since they played football,” he said. “We were extremely rusty. The legs got tired as practice went along. They are in great condition and in poor football shape.”
Rhoads had defensive backs Ter’ran Benton and Devin McDowell playing in the linebacker spot for much of the day.
With the spread ‘em out philosophy of offenses in the Big 12 Conference, defenders have to be able to cover a lot of ground. Rhoads hinted that we might see ISU play a lot of 4-2-5 defense, utilizing the nickel packages.
“We’ve evolved to where defenses need two types of depth charts,” he said. “As the season goes on you could see equal snaps of nickel compared to three LB packages that we put on the field.”
Also of note, junior college transfer linebacker Matt Taufoou strained his hamstring and missed much of Thursday’s practice.
Rhoads said the injury was minor and Taufoou should be back quickly.