This week’s player to watch: A.J. Klein

Iowa St Football Media Day

An unlikely player as emerged as the Big 12′s leading tackler two games into the season: A.J. Klein.

The Iowa State sophomore linebacker has 26 tackles so far, and is one of the Cyclones top up-and-coming players.

Klein, a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder, first showed his talents last season, when he made it on the field for all 13 of Iowa State’s games as a true freshman. He only recorded 17 tackles, but the groundwork for a strong career was established.

He got off to a fast start this year against Northern Illinois. In the season opener, he came up with 15 tackles and greatly helped Iowa State win 27-10.

He didn’t perform as well last week against highly ranked Iowa, but he still made 11 tackles in a tough road environment.

Add up those tackles, and you have a number that bests Justin Springer’s 22 at Kansas and is six clear from the rest of the conference’s top defensive players.

In each of those games, he played outside linebacker. But with Matt Tau’fo’ou going down with an injury against Iowa, Klein will move to middle linebacker and take on more responsibility against the Wildcats this week.

He will need to display some leadership abilities. As good as he was against Iowa, the Cyclones still allowed 35 points and 479 yards of offense.

“We have to improve on our tackling,” Klein said afterward.

Iowa State defenders will once again have their hands full trying to slow Daniel Thomas and Kansas State’s rushing attack this week at Arrowhead Stadium.

Coach Paul Rhoads has said Iowa State will need to stack the box against Thomas and play smart on defense.

Klein will be asked to lead that charge.