2008 Iowa State Preview - Defense
Iowa State CB Allen Bell
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Iowa State Cyclone Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know: Defensive coordinator
Wayne Bolt didn't exactly turn the defense into a killer, but it
held its own at times considering the offense provided a fat
load of jack squat. There were times when things got ugly,
really ugly, but the D did a decent job of keeping the team in
several games it had no business being a part of. The secondary
that got toasted by the good Big 12 quarterbacks gets everyone
back, but it needs help from a pass rush that wasn't consistent
or effective enough. Losing outside linebackers Ace Bowen and
Jon Banks is a killer, so the spotlight will be on Fred Garrin,
Josh Raven and Michael Bibbs to shine. The line should be the
strength of the D even though new tackles are taking over.
Smith, Jesse Smith, 79
Kurtis Taylor 6.5
Interceptions: Chris Singleton, 4
Star of the defense: Senior DE Kurtis Taylor
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LB Michael Bibbs
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Allen Bell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Taylor, 2) Bell, 3) DE
Strength of the defense: Secondary experience, ends
Weakness of the defense: Consistent pass rush, pass
Projected Starters: The strength of the line, and possibly the
defense, is on the ends where junior Rashawn Parker and senior
Kurtis Taylor are poised for big seasons. They each have to do more
to get to the quarterback, but they have the potential be great after
decent 2007 campaigns.
The 6-0, 258-pound Parker has been bothered by a wrist injury, but he
came up with a good year with 27 tackles and two sacks with 5.5 tackles
for loss. While he's not that tall, the former linebacker has a good
motor and a quick burst to get into the backfield.
Taylor, at 6-2 and 252 pounds, has good size and an excellent burst into
the backfield showing no ill-effects of a knee injury that cost him all
of 2006. The team's best pass rusher, with 6.5 sacks to go along with 41
tackles, will be counted on to bring even more pressure after struggling
a bit with his consistency.
There will be more of a battle for the starting tackle spots, but the
jobs appear to be set. 6-1, 308-pound junior Nate Frere is the
optimal-sized nose tackle with good strength and consistent play this
off-season. He only made four tackles last year playing behind Athyba
Rubin, but he's expected to become a rock for the next two years if he
can finally stay healthy.
Sophomore Bailey Johnson will be a part of a rotation at tackle,
but he's the best option to start the year replacing Bryce Braaksma. At
6-2 and 278 pounds, he's not a huge inside presence, but he's quick and
he's active making nine tackles in a limited role as a freshman.
Projected Top Reserves: The major battles will be
on the inside, but 6-3, 258-pound junior Christopher Lyle is
looking to make a big push for time on the outside behind Parker. The
former JUCO transfer made nine tackles and a tackle for loss last year,
but he was a good, steady practice player this spring and will see far
more playing time.
Looking to grow into more of a pass rusher will be Nick Frere,
Nate's brother, on the end behind Taylor. The 6-2, 254-pound senior made
11 tackles and a sack, and while he's not a great athlete, he has a
Senior Chris Weir hasn't quite made the impact expected on the
inside, making just three tackles, he's a 6-1, 269-pound veteran who can
be counted on to play a big role behind Johnson. He'll have to battle
with Michael Tate, a 6-4, 295-pound former JUCO transfer who was
supposed to become a major player last year but got hurt early on and
missed the year. At his size, he'll be needed to bring more bulk to the
Watch Out For ... a better end rotation. Parker and
Taylor are the starters, but Lyle and Nick Frere showed enough this
off-season to do far more. They're not going to push for the No. 1 jobs,
but they can carve out bigger roles for themselves by getting to the
quarterback more often.
Strength: Depth. The line isn't small, but it
isn't huge, and it loses two great tackles who were rocks throughout
last year. Fortunately, there's a good backup option at each spot who's
talented enough to start if needed. The rotation will be better than it
has been in years.
Weakness: Sacks. Taylor is good, Parker can do
more, and there needs to be more of a push from the interior. The
Cyclones came up with just 20 sacks last season and didn't do enough in
key spots. The secondary isn't good enough to survive unless the
quarterbacks are getting hit and hit often.
Outlook: The line wasn't bad last season against
the run, but it was mediocre when it came to getting to the quarterback.
There might not be any sure-thing all-stars to count on, but the
coaching staff will work on wreaking more havoc and coming up with more
big plays. With good depth, more experience, and some nice untested
prospects to work with, the line should be even better despite losing
Rubin and Braaksma on the inside.
Projected Starters: The defense has to replace the top two
tacklers, Jon Banks on the strongside, who made 80 stops, and Alvin
Bowen on the weakside, who was the star of the show over the last few
years making 99 tackles with 12 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles
last season. Bowen will be the tougher of the two to replace, but 6-1,
227-pound junior Fred Garrin will give it a try after making 19
tackles in a reserve role. While he's a bit undersized at 6-1 and 227
pounds he's a good tackler who's tough enough to play inside if needed.
Michael Bibbs could turn out to be an upgrade on the strongside
bringing more speed and athleticism to the position (although not by
much compared to Banks). With cornerback wheels in a compact 6-1,
223-pound frame, the senior should be all over the field and he should
be more effective in pass coverage and pass rushing than Banks was. He
made 19 tackles with two tackles for loss and two broken up passes.
The one returning starter, junior Jesse Smith, was overshadowed
by the two stars on the outside, but he finished third on the team with
79 tackles. Not much of a pass rusher and not all that effective in pass
coverage, the 6-0, 239-pound veteran gets by on his motor. He's a
plugger who'll make the plays that come to him, but he's not going to
show much in the way of range.
Projected Top Reserves: Looking for time on the
weakside will be 5-11, 206-pound junior Josh Raven, a
safety-sized backup who tore his ACL two years ago but came back to make
21 tackles last season. At the very least, he'll combine with Garrin in
a steady rotation.
From out of nowhere, career special teamer Derek Schmidgall
became a factor this off-season as he showed enough promise to
potentially see time in the middle behind Smith. The 6-1, 223-pound
junior could also be used on the strongside if needed. He's not all that
big, but he's an inside linebacker.
6-2, 236-pound sophomore Cameron Bell made three tackles in a
limited role, but with good size and excellent potential, and coming off
a strong off-season, the coaching staff will want to get him more work
to be ready to take over the strongside job from Bibbs next year.
Watch Out For ... Bibbs. He hasn't done a whole bunch
so far, stuck behind Banks, but he has the speed to become one of the
team's breakout players. It would hardly be a shock if he led the team
Strength: Quickness. Bibbs is fast, Smith is
serviceable, and everyone else can get to the ball. While this group
will rely more on try-hard than talent, it should be able to swarm to
the ball and get in on several gang tackles.
Weakness: Size. This isn't as huge a problem as it
was last year, but there still isn't much in the way of bulk with most
of the linebackers short and around 225 pounds. Considering two new
starters need to be broken in, the jury is still out on whether or not
this group can hold up against power running teams.
Outlook: It's hard to improve after losing
talented producers like Bowen and Banks, arguably the two best players
on the team last season, but the corps won't fall off the map. It's not
a stretch to call Bibbs and Garrin the two keys to the season as they
need to show they're ready for the Big 12 spotlight. If they're not
terrific, the Cyclones won't improve.
Projected Starters: All four starters return with long-time
veteran corner Chris Singleton leading the way. Back for his
third year as the starting corner, he has made 108 career stops
including 52 last year to go along with a team-leading four
interceptions. He went from fighting for his job last year at this time
to being a sure-thing going into this year, but while the 5-10,
194-pounder has good speed and experience, he has to be even better and
Back on the other side is 6-0, 181-pound junior Allen Bell, who
might not have the experience of Singleton, but is the type of No. 1
corner the team needs. He's not quite there yet as far as guy who can
erase everyone's top target, but the former JUCO transfer came in right
away and did what the team needed making 54 tackles with an
interception. Now he'll be asked to make more big plays.
Junior James Smith is back at free safety after tying for third
on the team with 79 tackles with two interceptions and three broken up
passes. At 5-8 and 191 pounds he's not all that huge, but he's one of
the team's fastest players and packs enough of a wallop to be used as a
strong safety if needed. He showed no ill-effects of the broken leg that
cost him all of 2006.
Former quarterback and wide receiver Chris Brown is back strong
safety after making 43 tackles with an interception. He didn't start the
season but he took over early on and became decent when the ball was in
the air and proved he could be a big hitter. Mostly a special teamer
early on his career, he's ready to take a step up in his senior season.
Projected Top Reserves: Trying to see time at
corner to make a push for a starting job next year will be sophomores
Devin McDowell and Zac Sandvig. The 5-9, 180-pound McDowell
was a good reserve making 16 tackles and a pick as he saw time in every
brother of former ISU star, DeAndre Jackson, has tremendous quickness
and athleticism playing behind Bell.
Sanvig was a top scout teamer who was going to be used a bit as a punt
returner, but he got hurt early on and missed almost the entire year.
He's back to play behind Singleton.
Junior Steve Johnson is good enough to start at either safety
job, and will start out at strong safety behind Brown. The 6-0,
205-pounder made 22 tackles, but he didn't do enough when the ball was
in the air. A smart player, he's due to be a bigger part of the
5-11, 205-pound senior Brandon Hunley made 14 tackles and will
work behind Smith at free safety. Mostly a special teamer throughout his
career, he has seen enough defensive time to be used in a variety of
formations. Defensively, he's been a mop-up player, for the most part.
Watch Out For ... the corners to be better. They need
more of a pass rush, but Bell is growing into a top-shelf corner and
Singleton, well, Singleton is a veteran who knows what he's doing and
became more of a ball-hawker last year.
Strength: Experience. All four starters return,
and while they weren't all that productive last year, the coaching staff
seems confident that with experience brings production in this case.
Cohesion won't be a problem.
Weakness: Production. The overall production will
be far better. It can't be any worse. Those were the exact same words
written last year here, and the Cyclones went from allowing 239 yards
per game to giving up 254 yards per game and 24 touchdowns.
Outlook: The knock on Gene Chizik defenses at
Texas was that the secondary gave up way too many big plays and way too
many passing yards. That's sort of why the Longhorns' NFL-caliber
secondary of 2006 was among the least productive in America. There will
be more of a pass rush and the DBs are more experienced, and better, but
it'll be a shock if any passing game with a pulse can't flick its wrist
and go for 200 yards.
Projected Starters: Bret
Culbertson was an occasionally decent midrange kicker who
struggled last year missing eight of 13 shots from beyond 30
yards. In other words, he's replaceable. True freshman Zach
Guyer needs to be a rock star right away, and while he has a
good leg, it's not a top-shelf one. He should be decent from
around 45 and in.
Junior punter Mike
Brandtner's average went down from close to 42 yards per
kick to 39.4, but he did a much better job of placing the ball
with 19 put inside the 20. While he's not going to make any
all-star teams, he's good enough to be counted on as a reliable
weapon to get the team out of trouble.
R.J. Sumrall averaged 21.8 yards per kickoff return last
year, but the team needs more help on punt returns after
averaging just 3,9 yards per try.
Watch Out For ... Guyer to be better from long range
than Culbertson, but miss a few big kicks because of his age.
Guyer hit 11 of 14 field goals as a high school senior. Welcome
to the Big 12.
Strength: Brandtner pinning the ball deep. Field
position will mean everything to the Cyclone defense, and the
more Brandtner can put the ball inside the 20, the better.
Weakness: Everything other than Brandtner. The ISU
special teams were abysmal last season. The coverage units,
especially a kickoff coverage team that allowed 24.3 yards per
try, were horrible, while the return teams were worse.
Outlook: The special teams were supposed to be
among the best in the Big 12 going into last season, and they
were supposed to be one area the new coaching staff didn't have
to worry about. Instead, outside of Brandtner, and Culbertson
inside 30 yards, the special teams were among the worst in
America. There's nowhere to go but up, and while things should
be better, there's a lot of uncertainty.