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Friday, March 9, 2012
Spring superlatives: Iowa State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Time to continue our series breaking down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. Iowa State is up next.

More spring superlatives: Strongest position: Linebacker

This one is clear. Iowa State topped our position rankings at linebacker, and for good reason. Or, perhaps more accurately, two good reasons.

Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Klein and teammate Jake Knott make up the best 1-2 punch at linebacker of any team in the country, and sophomore C.J. Morgan should fill out the unit heading into the spring. Knott was banged up all over throughout the 2011 season, but he and Klein were still the most productive duo of any linebackers in the Big 12.

They combined for 231 tackles and finished second and fourth in the Big 12 in tackles. Even scarier for the rest of the Big 12? They'll both be back and be third-year starters in 2012. Look out, especially if Knott stays healthy during the season.

Weakest position: Defensive line

If you want to know why Iowa State had such trouble stopping opposing offenses last year, point to this unit. Additionally, its most productive members are gone after last season.

Patrick Neal and Jacob Lattimer combined for 6.5 sacks, and are gone. As is tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer, who added five tackles for loss and 2.5 more sacks.

End Roosevelt Maggitt returns, as does tackle Jake McDonough, but Iowa State has big holes in a trouble spot for the defense.