AMES — Iowa State’s defense is looking for some new leaders.
Sophomore linebacker A.J. Klein wants the job.
“I’m ready to step up,” Klein said Tuesday, the first day of spring practice for the Cyclones, who are replacing a half-dozen defensive starters and all three linebackers. “I want to be the leader.”
Klein, Jake Knott — who also got his feet wet last year playing some as a true freshman — and transfer Matt Taufoou sit atop the depth chart at this point in time.
Klein wants to fill the shoes of Jesse Smith, an emotional leader and one of the Cyclones’ top tacklers the past three seasons. Josh Raven and Fred Garrin, both starters, and backup Derec Schmidgall also have moved on.
“Jesse and Fred and Raven all helped us out a lot giving us pointers knowing it would be us next year,” Klein said. “There’s nobody else older around to teach us.”
Klein has a burning desire to follow in Smith’s footsteps as a defensive captain.
The 6-1, 237-pounder from Kimberly, Wis., wants to help call the shots.
“I know I’m going to be getting signals from the sideline but I always want to be the guy taking charge,” Klein said. “I want to make this a championship team. I want to be the leader of it.”