2007 Iowa State Preview - Defense
Iowa State Cyclone Defense
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Iowa State Preview |
2007 Iowa State Offense Preview
2007 Iowa State Depth Chart
2006 CFN Iowa State
What you need to know: A
complete and total disaster last season, defensive coordinator
Wayne Bolt has his work cut out for him with a mediocre
collection of talents and few obvious stars to build around
other than outside linebackers Alvin Bowen and Jon Banks. The
defensive front should be more aggressive and better at getting
into the backfield, but will the lack of size cost them in the
running game? For a while, yes. The secondary is the bigger
concern after giving up yards in bunches and without a true
number one cover-corner to count on. Linebacker is the strength
to build around, and it could be even better if Adam Carper
returns ready to go from a knee injury.
Tackles: Alvin Bowen,
Rashawn Parker, 3
Interceptions: Chris Singleton, 2
Star of the defense: Senior LB Alvin Bowen
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior
CB Chris Singleton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Rashawn Parker
Best pro prospect: Senior LB Jon Banks (as a safety)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bowen, 2) Banks, 3) SS
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Secondary experience
Projected Starters: Several backups from last year have to
quickly grow up and be productive starters. The most promising prospect
up front is sophomore Rashawn Parker, a linebacker-like 6-0 and
249-pound speed rusher who made 25 tackles and three sacks in a limited
role as a true freshman. With a quick burst, he'll be asked to grow into
the team's top pass rusher early on.
On the other side of Parker will be junior
Kurtis Taylor, who was all set to start last season before tearing
up his knee. The 255-pound former linebacker looked the part in 2006
fall practices before the injury, and now he has to use his motor and
quickness to replace leading sacker Shawn Moorehead.
Senior noseguard Athyba Rubin is the only returning starter up
front after taking over the job early last year. Starting out as a
reserve, he became too productive and too tough to keep out of the
lineup. The 285-pound former JUCO transfer finished with 34 tackles and
four tackles for loss showing good side-to-side quickness and a burst
into the backfield.
Next to Rubin will be senior Bryce Braaksma, a
smart honor roll performer in the classroom who made 17 tackles at
defensive end. Not a great pass rusher, he'll move inside and be a
small, quick 254-pound tackle.
Projected Top Reserves: While Braaksma's
experience makes him the first option at tackle, 260-pound senior
Nick Howe will get every shot at the job. A scout teamer and
reserve, he has yet to get on the field. 309-pound redshirt freshman
Bailey Johnson will be the big option on short-yardage plays.
Backing up on the nose will be 306-pound sophomore Nate Frere,
who got the start as a true freshman before getting booted by Rubin. A
fascinating prospect, he was a high school wide receiver who started out
his Cyclone career as a linebacker and bulked up to become a tackle
making five tackles.
On the outside, 234-pound redshirt freshman
Patrick Neal will play behind Parker on the weakside. One of the
team's top recruits two years ago, he has the raw talent to eventually
grow into a factor in the rotation. 6-5, 250-pound junior Travis
Ferguson will play behind Taylor after missing most of last year
with a shoulder injury. With great athleticism, he has the potential to
grow into a star if he can stay healthy.
Watch Out For ... pressure, pressure and more
pressure. The coaching staff will use a rotation of ends to keep
everyone fresh and get into the backfield far more consistently than
last year's line.
Strength: Quickness. At all four spots up front,
being able to move will take precedence over bulk size. Everyone on the
line can get into the backfield.
Weakness: Proven production. While there are
several players who've seen action, there aren't enough sure-things to
count on, especially against the run. The coaching staff will find a way
to get this group into the backfield, but they'll have to hope everyone
can hold up against the bigger lines.
Outlook: The potential is there, but you don't get
better by losing Brent Curvey and Shawn Moorehead. The tackles are way
too light to last long when pounded on by the 300-pound Big 12
behemoths, while the ends haven't proven they can consistently shine.
The pass defense was lousy last year, and it'll continue to have
problems if this group doesn't camp out in opposing backfields.
Projected Starters: While there are big concerns almost everyone
on the team, outside linebacker is set with seniors Alvin Bowen
and Jon Banks returning after combining for 254 tackles. "Ace"
Bowen is a safety-sized 6-2 and 216 pounds, but he has tremendous range
and is a phenomenal hitter after leading the nation in tackles per game
and finishing with 155 stops. While he was expected to be a terror in
the backfield going into last year from the weakside, he only ended up
with one sack; he spent too much time cleaning up the messes from the
rest of the run defense.
Banks started out last year at safety before
ending up at strongside linebacker to get him even more involved with
the run defense finishing with 99 tackles to go along with six broken up
passes. A sure tackler, he's also like another weakside linebacker in
Fred Garrin will be an undersized backup inside. A good tackler with
excellent quickness, he should handle himself well whether he stays
inside or moves out. For now he'll take over in the middle for Tyrone
McKenzie who made 129 stops but decided to transfer to South Florida.
Projected Top Reserves: Will Adam Carper be
back? Able to play on the strongside or in the middle, Carper made 39
tackles in five games on the outside before going down with a knee
injury. While he won't replace Banks or Bowen at this point, he could
end up starting in the middle if he's back healthy by fall and be a key
pass rusher no matter where he plays.
Until then, sophomore Jesse Smith
will be the key backup after only making seven tackles in a limited
role. At 233 pounds he has good size, but he's untested.
Behind Banks on the strongside, 6-1,
223-pound sophomore Derek Schmidgall has to get his feet wet
after making one tackle being used primarily on special teams.
freshman Matt Leaders, brother of former ISU great, Nick, will
backup Bowen on the weakside. While he's only 210 pounds, he's
tough and has good speed.
Watch Out For ... this to be the team's strength if
Carper returns back at close to 100%. Bowen and Banks will combine for
at least 200 tackles, and Smith will be fine early on in the middle, but
the linebackers will be fantastic with last year's rising star back in
Strength: Tackling. This might not be the biggest
group around, but they can all tackle. Bowen and Banks simply don't miss
and are great at getting in on every play.
Weakness: Size. There's a problem when your
linebackers are built like defensive backs, they can get plowed over.
The Cyclone linebackers made far too many plays down the field. They can
all tackle, but they don't always stop the ball cold.
Outlook: Bowen and Banks are excellent and will be
among the Big 12's most productive outside linebackers. It would be nice
if they could get into the backfield more, but it might be enough to
have them make tackle after tackle in all phases. Having McKenzie back
would've been nice, but as long as Smith can be a rock in the middle
against the run and doesn't make too many mistakes, and as long as Bowen
and Banks stay healthy, this will be one of the team's most productive
Projected Starters: The one certainty will be senior strong
safety Caleb Berg, a decent tackling veteran who led the
secondary with 76 tackles to go along with three broken up passes. Able
to play either safety position if needed, he'll need to be the rock of a
relatively young unit. Being the leader and the quarterback among the
defensive backs isn't a problem; he's a three-time First Team Academic
All-Big 12 performer.
Taking over the full-time spot at free safety will
be sophomore James Smith, who was all set to start at strong
safety last year before breaking his leg. One of the team's fastest
players, range isn't going to be a problem. Don't be shocked if he turns
out to be the most productive playmaker in the secondary.
The corner spots are a little more unsettled. Junior Chris Singleton
is back after starting every game in 2006 making two interceptions
and 48 tackles, but he's not a lock to keep his job after having way too
many problems getting burned. He has good size and decent speed, but he
needs to be more consistent to be a true number one corner.
Drenard Williams is an interesting prospect on the other side with
6-1, 223-pound size, tremendous speed, and a little bit of experience
making 19 tackles in a limited role. He has all the measurables, now he
has to cover someone and start making plays when the ball is in the air.
Projected Top Reserves: Singleton is neck-and-neck
with junior Chris Brown for the starting right corner job. Brown,
a former quarterback who hasn't been able to break through yet
defensively, still needs work, but has the potential to be a key player
in the rotation.
On the other side, redshirt freshman Devin McDowell
is a future starter with tremendous athleticism and quickness. The
brother of former ISU star DeAndre Jackson isn't that big at only 5-9
and 174 pounds, but he can play.
At free safety, sophomore Steve
Johnson is a bigger option than Smith, but he still needs more time
after making 11 tackles in seven games. He has good size and smarts
earning a spot on the Big 12 Honor Roll. 5-11, 201-pound junior
Brandon Hunley has spent most of his time on special teams, but he
got a little time in at safety making 11 stops. He'll back up Berg to
start the year.
Watch Out For ... the overall production to be far
better. It can't be any worse. The corners might not be anything
special, but the safeties can play and should do a good job as long as
they don't have to spend all their time dealing with the run.
Strength: Depth. While the reserves are hardly
developed veterans, the second-teamers aren't light years behind the
projected starters. However ...
Weakness: Talent. The second-teamers aren't light
years behind the projected starters. The coaching staff will be trying
to work miracles with this group all season long (but the secondary
should be stronger in 2008).
Outlook: The Cyclones allowed a whopping 239 yards
per game and were 115th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The
coaching alone should make the numbers a bit better, but unless
Singleton, Williams and Brown start make more plays on the short to
mid-range passes, this could be another long year.
Projected Starters: Senior Bret
Culbertson is a rock of a midrange kicker connecting on 28
of 37 career field goals while hitting 15 of 17 inside the 40
over the last two seasons. The rail-thin 6-6, 179-pound former
walk-on has nailed all 74 of his extra point attempts and should
be one of the team's steadiest weapons. His only problem is his
range without a big-time deep leg. However, he nailed a 52 yard
bomb against Texas Tech last season. Sophomore punter Mike
Brandtner had a nice first year averaging 41.2 yards per
kick putting 12 inside the 20. While he can boom the ball, he
could stand to get a bit more air under his kicks.
Watch Out For ... the kicking game to be among the
best in the Big 12. Culbertson won't miss more than two in a
row, and Brandtner is growing into a potential All-Big 12
Strength: Culbertson. He's all but automatic
inside the 40 and doesn't get rattled.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. The Cyclones struggled
averaging a mere 18.4 yards per return last season. Milan Moses
was good averaging 21.7 yards per return, but no one else did
much of anything. That has to change considering the average
offense will need good field position more than most teams.
Outlook: The coaching staff doesn't have to worry
too much here. The return game will be fine in time, and the
kicking game will be a rock. The coverage units were good last
year and needs to be a strength again from the start.