2012 Iowa State Preview - Defense

Posted Jul 12, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Iowa State Cyclone Defense

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2012 - Defense

- 2012 Iowa State Preview | 2012 Iowa State Offense
- 2012 Iowa State Defense | 2012 Iowa State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: It's all relative in the Big 12. The run defense struggled and overall the D finished 95th in the nation allowing 427 yards per game, but that was still good enough to end up in the middle of the conference pack. The biggest problem will continue to be a glaring lack of pass rush coming up with just 17 sacks and 56 tackles for loss. With only one returning starter up front, the line will be trying to hold up, much less figure out how to get to the quarterback. Fortunately, the linebackers will be among the best in the Big 12 with A.J. Klein and Jake Knott a brilliant duo to work around. The secondary has some big losses to overcome, but it shouldn't be all that bad considering the high-powered passing games it will have to deal with and the lack of a good pass rush to count on.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: A.J. Klein, 116
Sacks: A.J. Klein, Jake McDonough, 2
Interceptions: Jeremy Reeves, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB A.J. Klein & Jake Knott
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Cleyon Laing
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE David Irving
Best pro prospect: Klein
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Klein, 2) Knott, 3) S Jacques Washington
Strength of the defense: Klein & Knott, Pass Defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Sure-Thing Line Starters

Defensive Line

The ISU defensive line doesn't get to the quarterback, and that has to change with senior Roosevelt Maggitt needing to come back for form after tearing his ACL. At 6-3 and 246 pounds he's built like an outside linebacker and has the right athleticism and great quickness, but he's still trying to get healthy and he has to prove he can get into the backfield after making 30 tackles with two tackles for loss two years ago. If he's not ready, then it'll be up to 6-2, 231-pound junior Willie Scott after being used in the rotation making 34 tackles with a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss. Quick off the ball, he could be a specialist.

6-7, 262-pound sophomore David Irving is a very big, very promising end for the left side. He might not be a speed rusher, but he has great size and an excellent frame making five tackles with two broken up passes – he's tough to throw over – as a true freshman. Very raw, he still needs time before he becomes a more polished defender, but the upside is limitless. He'll work in a rotation with speed rushing Devin Lemke, a 6-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman who could provide a burst into the backfield.

The lone returning starters up front will be the anchor on the nose, Jake McDonough, a 6-5, 290-pound senior who went from being a nice part of a rotation to the main man in the middle making 35 tackles with two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading five quarterback hurries. In a very scary and bizarre case, he was hit by a strange illness a few years ago and dropped 50 pounds. It took him a year to get back to form and a few years to bulk up to his current size, but now he's well past the problems.

6-4, 290-pound senior Cleyon Laing is a quick interior presence who has the ability to get behind the line but hasn't done it on a regular basis. A nice athlete to go along with his size and experience, the pressure will be on to do far, far more after making 12 tackles with half a sack. 6-5, 280-opund sophomore Brandon Jensen can play anywhere in the interior but will start out behind Laing after getting his feet wet making three tackles.

Watch Out For … Maggitt's health. If he's ready to roll after his knee injury he needs to be the main pass rusher. No matter what his status, Scott needs to become a factor on the right side.
Strength: Depth. While there's only one returning starter, for the first time in a long time there are options for each of the four spots. There's size and plenty of upside with a nice mix of veteran starters and promising young backups.
Weakness: Pass rush. The Cyclones haven't done anything to get to the quarterback for the last few years making 11 sacks in 2010 and just 17 last year. There isn't anyone up front who'll throw a scare into offensive coordinators.
Outlook: The line has to be better. The run defense was shoved around a bit much and there was nothing happening behind the line finishing 106th in the nation in sacks and 112th in tackles for loss. The Cyclones have to find a sure-thing pass rusher to rely on and hope for more production and toughness in the interior.
Unit Rating: 6


The Cyclones have one of the best and most productive linebacking tandems in college football led by senior A.J. Klein, the Big 12 co-defensive player of the year with a team-leading 116 tackles with two sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, six broken up passes and a 78-yard interception return for a score against Missouri. At 6-2 and 244 pounds he has tremendous size and is a terrific tackler with 244 in his first three seasons. Great for the middle, he's a terrific quarterback for the defensive front and is still improving with improving instincts by the week.

senior Jake Knott, a 6-2, 239-pound all-around playmaker on the weakside who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors after coming up with 115 tackles with four tackles for loss and two picks with four forced fumbles. A guided missile, he has been a tackling machine throughout his career with 130 tackles two years ago, 13 stops against Oklahoma State and 18 against Baylor, he's not necessarily the greatest athlete but he's as tough as nails breaking his arm last offseason and undergoing shoulder surgery this spring.

Eventually, 6-1, 242-pound sophomore Jevohn Miller will be the star of the linebacking corps. Very big and very strong, he's able to work in the middle if needed but will start out on the weakside playing behind Knott. He was great this offseason when Knott was out hurt, but he only made two tackles last season and needs to prove it on the field.

While Klein and Knott are the stars, 6-3, 213-pound sophomore C.J. Morgan is a promising strongside defender who started four times last season and finished with 17 tackles with two tackles for loss. Tall, rangy and quick, he's good against the run, but he'll be pushed aside from time-to-time when the Cyclone D goes with five defensive backs. The 6-0, 196-pound Deon Broomfield is a nickel back who'll work in place of a linebacker from time to time in 4-2-5 alignments. He came up with 23 tackles on the year and needs to do more against the pass, but he can move.

Seeing time as a true linebacker on the strongside or in the middle if Klein moves around will be 5-11, 225-pound junior Jeremiah George, a great-looking prospect who stepped up his play this offseason after making just a tackle last season. He's not big, but he can hit and has nice range.

Watch Out For … five defensive back alignments. Knott and Klein will never leave the field, but because so many Big 12 teams bomb away the Cyclones need to have a nickel defender in the alignment as much as possible.
Strength: Knott and Klein. The two hitters have combined for 512 career tackles and form a devastating duo against the run. While they make a few too many plays down the field and the stats are better than the players, they're very, very good and are two reliable playmakers to work the entire defense around.
Weakness: Run defense. For all the big things that Knott and Klein do and for all their great stats, Iowa State gave up 193 rushing yards per game and did little to get behind the line. While they make stops, they don't come up with enough big plays.
Outlook: The numbers will be there and Knott and Klein are the real deal, but like the rest of the Cyclone defense the linebackers have to make more game-changing plays and they have to be more disruptive. Expect close to 250 tackles between the two stars.
Unit Rating: 8

Defensive Backs

This could be a problem area after losing star corner Leonard Johnson, but senior corner Jeremy Reeves is a good one to work on the outside. While he's only 5-7 and 166 pounds and was out this offseason with a wrist injury, he's lightning-quick and is a terrific tackler for his size making 70 stops with two picks and seven broken up passes after making 62 tackles two years ago. While he has problems with bigger receivers, he's physical and can hold his own.

Looking to take over for Johnson on the other side will be junior Jansen Watson after coming up with a great spring. With the athleticism and speed to be all over the field, the 5-9, 194-pounder has the look of a potential lock-down playmaker on the right side, but he has to prove it when the lights are on making just 12 tackles with no broken up passes last season. Also in the mix will be junior Clifford Stokes, a nice-looking JUCO transfer who brings some much needed size to the position at 6-1 and 175 pounds. The Tallahassee native made 35 tackles and broke up 16 broken up passes for Trinity Valley CC and was a nice get for the Cyclones.

6-1, 213-pound junior free safety Jacques Washington is the new star and leader of the secondary after finishing third on the team with 90 tackles and a sack with eight broken up passes. The former high school running back went from being a promising reserve to a great all-around defender. Smart, instinctive and productive, it's all there to be a bigger star now that he's the team's top returning defensive back. He'll be backed up by Deon Broomfield, a nice veteran who made 23 tackles but didn't do anything when the ball was in the air. At 6-0 and 196 pounds he has decent size and can move as a nickel defender if needed.

Taking over at strong safety is 6-0, 211-pound senior Durrell Givens, a spot starters who made 31 tackles with two broken up passes. A former JUCO transfer from Chaffey College, he produced when given the shot and showed he could handle the work, and now he should be among the team's leading tacklers. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, sophomore Jared Brackens is a good-sized option at either safety spot after making seven tackle in a reserve role.

Watch Out For … Reeves' wrist. He's supposed to be fine after undergoing surgery, but if he's not 100% right there could be some major shuffling to find the right combination. There are other options, but he'll likely be the No. 1 guy on the outside.
Strength: Production. Considering all the high-octane passing games in the Big 12, finishing third in the conference allowing 234 yards per game weren't that bad. Only Oklahoma State threw for over 300 yards with Texas Tech and Oklahoma each throwing for fewer than 150 yards. With no pass rush to help the cause, the Cyclones did a nice job.
Weakness: Proven veterans. Washington is a good one, but Reeves is banged up and has to prove he's back to form. The secondary will be relying on a few JUCO transfers and need help from unlikely sources to beef up the depth.
Outlook: The secondary made a huge improvement, but it's losing the star corner Leonard Johnson hurts and there isn't enough of a pass rush to count on to expect a huge year. It will be a good secondary, but it will have to prove itself all over again.
Unit Rating: 6

Special Teams

Gone is Zach Guyer, who nailed a solid 11-of-16 field goals from midrange. Also gone is long-distance bomber Grant Mahoney, but he only connected on one of his four chances. Redshirt freshman Chris Moore is on top of the depth chart going into the fall, but the walk-on is almost certainly going to give way to true freshman Cole Netten, a decent prospect with a good enough leg to handle the workload from anywhere inside 50 yards.

The punting game was decent with Kirby Van Der Kamp averaging 42.7 yards per try putting 21 inside the 20. The junior has a good leg and averaged a whopping 45.2 yards per kick two years ago, but he put way too many kicks into the end zone. Even so, he's a good veteran who's great at getting the offense out of jams.

Receiver Josh Lenz didn't do enough on punt returns averaging just 5.7 yards per try, but now it will be up to sophomore Jarvis West to handle most of the kick and punt returns with tremendous quickness and good upside after averaging a terrific 26 yards per kickoff return. Receiver Aaron Horne averaged 13.2 yards per punt return and 21.9 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For … Netten. There's a teeny, tiny margin for error for Iowa State three of the wins coming by a grand total of seven points and the Oklahoma State win coming by six. Netten could be the difference between the Cyclones going bowling and going 4-8.
Strength: Kickoff returns. The Cyclones got production out of almost everyone who touched the ball on kickoff returns with three players averaging 25.7 yards or more and Lenz averaging 22 yards per pop. There are plenty of options to work with again.
Weakness: Netten. Maybe. It's not like Guyer was automatic, but he got the job done. The team can't afford a true freshman kicker to play like a true freshman kicker.
Outlook: The special teams have been fantastic over the last few years under Paul Rhoads and should be terrific once again if Netten is as good as advertised. The punt return game could stand to use a little more pop, but the coverage teams are great and the punting should be solid.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2012 Iowa State Preview | 2012 Iowa State Offense
- 2012 Iowa State Defense | 2012 Iowa State Depth Chart