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Iowa State Preview 2006 - Defense
Iowa State Cyclones
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Iowa State Cyclones Preview 2006 - Cyclone defense

What you need to know ... The defense made a ton of big plays last year with a high-risk, high-reward style that led the way to a strong run defense and 35 takeaways. Expect more of the same with plenty of blitzing from the back seven. There are more good athletes than the Cyclones have had under head coach Dan McCarney, but there are also some major holes to be filled on the line and secondary with several good-looking young prospects needing to quickly become playmakers. There are great building blocks to work around with Brent Curvey and Shawn Moorehead on the line and corner DeAndre Jackson all sure to be in line for Big 12 honors. 

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Brent Curvey, 61
Sacks: Brent Curvey, 6.5
Interceptions: DeAndre Jackson, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB DeAndre Jackson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Chris Singleton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Tyrone McKenzie
Best pro prospect: Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) DT Brent Curvey, 3) DE Shawn Moorehead
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Secondary experience

Defensive Line
There are some huge losses up front with top tackle Nick Leaders and unstoppable end Jason Berryman both gone. There Cyclones aren't starting from scratch with Brent Curvey and Shawn Moorehead two of the Big 12's highest motor producers, but this isn't a big line and it might have problems holding up against the bigger lines. Kurtis Taylor had a great spring, but he's not going to be Berryman. There are good reserves battling for spots inside, and now depth has to develop on the ends.
The key to the unit: Generate a consistent pass rush on the other side of Shawn Moorehead and hold up strong against the bigger running teams.

Defensive Line Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- DE Kurtis Taylor, Jr. - 7 tackles
Taylor was one of the team's better players over spring ball and is poised for a big year. The former linebacker will move to end where he's expected to provide a steady pass rush 

- NG Bryce Braaksma, Jr. - 1 tackle
It'll be up to the 260-pound junior to take over for Nick Leaders on the nose battling with Matt Berg for the job. He's an great performer in the classroom, and now he has to be a good interior pass rusher to make up for his lack of bulk.

- DT Brent Curvey, Sr. - 61 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 1 interception, 4 quarterback hurries
One of the Big 12's best all-around tackles, the 305-pound senior is surprisingly fast and should be a lock for all-star honors. "Big Play" is a tremendous pass rusher with too much quickness for most guards and should be the leader of the line.

- DE Shawn Moorehead, Sr. - 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL
The Academic All-Big 12 performer also turned into a strong starter last season. The former walk-on has bulked up to a rangy 6-4, 250-pound pass rusher who's one of the team's hardest workers. He's surprisingly strong against the run with 80 career tackles. 

Top Backups
- DE Travis Ferguson, Soph.
Mostly a scout teamer so far, the 245-pound sophomore will be the understudy behind Shawn Moorehead at the rush end. He's athletic and has good potential, and his development is one of the keys to a line that needs depth on the end.
- DE Nick Frere, Soph. - 2 tackles
The former linebacker will be one of the team's main backups pushing for time behind Kurtis Taylor. He was a high school receiver and running back who brings the athleticism to the line.
- DT Stephon Dale, RFr.
While Bryce Braaksma will be the starter on the nose, the line needs Dale to be a consistent defender in the rotation. The two guards are undersized and both will see plenty of action.

The loss of top tackler Tim Dobbins won't hurt all that much thanks to the expected emergence of Tyrone McKenzie on the outside. However, things get rough needing Adam Carper to shine in the middle with Matt Robertson and his 103 tackles out of the mix after getting kicked off the team for taking a banned nutritional supplement. Adam Carper is a tremendous backup with the versatility to play any of the three spots. Alvin Bowen and Josh Raven aren't all that big on the weakside, but they can run. Expect a ton of big plays and lots of overall production.
The key to the unit: Hope for Adam Carper to shine on the inside and for Tyrone McKenzie to be as good as expected.
Linebacker Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- Tyrone McKenzie, Soph.
The Michigan State transfer will be fantastic on the strongside. He was unstoppable on the scout team last season showing off tremendous speed and athleticism. He's a sprinter in a 230-pound body.

Adam Carper, Soph. - 41 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes
He'll get the starting spot in the middle now that Matt Robertson is off the team. The all-star freshman got far stronger last year filling out his 6-3 frame to get up to a strong 225 pounds with the speed and strength to play either strongside or in the middle. He turned into a sensational pass rusher this spring and should spend most of this fall in opposing backfields.

- Alvin Bowen, Jr. - 33 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
"Ace" was a key reserve and now will take over on the weakside for Matt Robertson. He's a tall, rangy player at 6-4 and 220 pounds with great speed. He's a former JUCO transfer who should be one of the team's leading tacklers and a potential terror in the backfield.

Top Backups
- Matt Robertson, Sr. - 103 tackles, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes, 5 TFL
Robertson was all set to be one of the Big 12's top tacklers once again, but he was thrown off the team after testing positive for a banned nutritional supplement.

- Josh Raven, RFr.
He's not big at only 5-11 and 205 pounds, but he can move. Even though he's a bit too small to be an every down linebacker, he'll be a dangerous backup on the weakside.

Defensive Backs
The secondary wasn't a rock last year getting beaten deep way too often, but it made a ton of big plays and was a good group against short to medium range passers. Things aren't going to be as bad as they might appear early on after losing three top starters as long as all the good-looking young athletes turn into playmakers. There's good competition at the safety spots and at right corner, but there's little to no experience anywhere outside of corner DeAndre Jackson, who should be one of the best in the country.
The key to the unit: Desperately hope for all the young prospects to be productive right away and stop allowing so many big chunks of yards.
Secondary Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- CB DeAndre Jackson, Sr. - 55 tackles, 5 interception, 8 broken up passes, 1 TFL, 4 forced fumbles
One of the best defensive backs in the Big 12, the 6-0, 192-pound senior hits like a safety and covers like a corner. He'll get beat taking a lot of chances, but it's worth it with all the big plays he makes both against the run and when the ball is in the air. He's just a tremendous all-around playmaker.

- FS Jon Banks, Jr. - 7 tackles
Mostly a special teamer so far, the 6-3, 217-pound junior will battle with Caleb Berg for the starting job to replace Steve Paris. Banks has the size and should be a big hitter, but consistency will be the big question early on.

- SS James Smith, RFr.
While he doesn't have any experience, isn't all that big at 5-8 and 191 pounds, and he has to replace the steady play of Nik Moser, but he's really, really fast. He'll combine with Caleb Berg for the job.

- CB Chris Singleton, Soph. - 8 tackles, 3 broken up passes
A nickel back all of last year, Singleton appears to be a playmaker in the making just needing a little more time before he's a good one. He has to prepare to be picked on with teams sure to stay away from DeAndre Jackson on the other side.

Top Backups
- S Caleb Berg, Jr. - 6 tackles
The 6-1, 203-pound junior is versatile enough to play either safety position and could end up starting at some point. A top special teamer so far, he has to being his big-play potential and be a strong, steady defender.
- CB Steve Johnson, RFr.
An emerging star at corner, Johnson is big at 6-2 and 197 pounds with a boatload of talent behind Chris Singleton on the right side. He'll be a key special teamer early on and should quickly push for time.
- CB Chris Brown, Soph.
A special teamer so far after coming to Iowa State as a quarterback, Brown is an athletic option on the left side behind DeAndre Jackson. He'll get every shot this summer to earn more playing time.

Special Teams
The kicking game will be fine as long as a steady punter emerges in the battle between Michael Brandtner and Scott Krava. Bret Culbertson will be one of the Big 12's better kickers. The punt coverage unit has to be far better, but the kickoff coverage was fantastic last season and DeAndre Jackson should be one of the nation's best kickoff returners. Ryan Baum will take over the punt return job full-time after averaging 11.8 yards per return.
The key to the unit: Come up with a good punter and get another strong year out of PK Bret Culbertson.
Special Teams Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- PK Bret Culbertson, Jr. - 12-16 FGs, 34-34 extra points
Culbertson came in as a walk-on and took over and becoming a rock-solid kicker showing decent range and good consistency hitting nine of ten kicks inside 40 yards. He's also clutch. The down side is his deep leg; he doesn't have one.

- P Michael Brandtner, RFr.
Brandtner and Scott Krava will combine to try to replace Troy Blankenship and his 42.5 yards per kick. Brandtner saw plenty of action in practices late last year and in bowl preparations showing off a huge leg.

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