Peterson: National experts — and Josey Jewell, too — amazed at Joel Lanning phenomenon

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Sports writers Randy Peterson and Tommy Birch look back at Iowa State’s big win against Oklahoma and question whether Kansas will be a let down for the Cyclones.
Michael Zamora/The Register

AMES, Ia. — You know how coaches talk. Best this, best that …

But in defense of Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Joel Lanning probably is the best story going right now in college football.

“I can’t think of anything better off the top of my head,” said Brian Baldinger, part of the FSN announcing team for Iowa State’s 11 a.m. game Saturday against 1-4 Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium. “There’s a ton of great stories in college football, but this one — from a pure football standpoint — this one is just awesome.

“I mean, Joel Lanning is a local kid from right down the road from the stadium who’s been in and out as a starting quarterback before moving to middle linebacker. All that right there is awesome, but really — freakin’ falling on a fumble at the 6-yard line in the third quarter?

“I can’t use the word ‘awesome’ enough.”

And the former pro wasn’t quite finished.

“And freakin’ sacking Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter? I didn’t know Baker Mayfield could even be sacked,” Baldinger went on.

Freakin’ awesome, you bet. But Baldinger isn’t alone in his praise for this guy who not only calls defensive signals, but also calls them when he’s playing quarterback.

Others, too, are amazed what Lanning has become in such a short time — from adding middle linebacker to the ol’ resume nine months ago to playing the all-around game of his collegiate life during last Saturday’s upset of third-ranked Oklahoma in Norman.

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From national experts to even one of his in-state rivals, this Lanning dude is simply astounding.

“I can’t even imagine doing what he’s doing,” Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell told Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes. “You can’t just walk in and play this position. There are things you only learn from being out there. There’s nothing easy about doing what he’s doing.”

Lanning is a freak of college football nature. In the fifth game of his life at the position, this ironman senior not only sacked Baker Mayfield last Saturday, he also recovered a Sooners fumble at the Iowa State 6-yard line in the Cyclones’ 38-31 win. He had 35 rushing yards as a quarterback. He passed for 25 yards. He had eight tackles.

“For Joel Lanning to have a big impact on both sides of the ball like he did against Oklahoma was just incredible,” Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports told me this week. “You cannot underplay that.

“When Joel went in there at quarterback, the first thing I thought about was Chuck Bednarik.”

Not that many people in Lanning’s generation know Bednarik’s legacy, but he was the NFL’s last significant two-way player, starring at both center and linebacker in the 1950s. There’s a postseason award with his name on it — for college football’s best defensive player.

“What a great story, not only what Joel Lanning’s doing, but the Kyle Kempt story, too, and what he did at Oklahoma — that’s up there, as well,” Dodd went on. “Those are the types of stories that separate college football from the NFL.

When’s the last time a team won at Oklahoma with a linebacker who also plays meaningful snaps at quarterback? When’s the last time a walk on quarterback out-performed Mayfield?

“Those are the kinds of situations that make you want to be in college again,” Dodd told me.

How much two-platoon ball will Lanning play on Saturday?

He could play as needed, against an opponent that’s at or near the bottom of most Big 12 Conference statistics …

Or he could play a lot while expanding his offensive playbook …

Or he stays on defense.

“You never really know,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “Each week’s a little different.

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“Joel allows us to have different looks — to be unique. It’s (also) something we have to be careful about, with Joel playing so many plays.

“You like to do some things with him, but at the same time, is there a tipping point?”

The Lanning secret is out. The story of the year in college football?

Right now, I don’t hear much buzz to the contrary.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at rpeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.

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Source: Des Moines Register

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