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August 22, 2012

Breaking Training: the ISU defense

Iowa State broke training camp this weekend following a third and final scrimmage on Saturday. After a day off today for the start of the fall academic term, the Cyclones return to the practice field on Tuesday to be prepping for Tulsa in the season opener on September 1.

So what's left for the coaches to determine after grading the final scrimmage tapes and assessing how players performed throughout pre-season camp? Here's a position group-by-group look at the defense and special teams with the few questions that remained to be answered and the many answers we already know.

Defensive line
Iowa State will have two new starters on the front four, but there is no mystery as to who they will be. Senior Jake McDonough is the anchor of the 2012 D line at nose guard and Rosey Maggitt returns from injury to claim a DE spot. And it will be senior Cleyon Laing at defensive tackle and junior Willie Scott at the other end. Where the intrigue lies here is the 8-man rotation up front, and perhaps even if it goes deeper than eight. Newcomers Ben Durbin and Cory Morrissey have made a push to be in the eight.

Prediction: Iowa State will go at least eight deep on the line. Nick Kron and David Irving are the most likely twos at defensive end while Durbin and Brandon Jensen are my best bets to be in the rotation on the inside. Rony Nelson will be a designated pass rusher on the edge and/or lining up inside at DT for a new twist. Guys like Walter Woods and Henry Simon could give the Cyclones a huge boost defensively by being in the rotation and playing well when called upon.


Linebackers
In a position group where Iowa State has two bona fide All-American candidates, it was the emergence of a different 'backer that has been the main storyline. Junior Jeremiah George's development in the spring and on into the fall has given Iowa State a larger window of opportunity to play more three-linebacker packages and be a little more stout against the run because of it. Having someone with coverage ability, too, to put between seniors Jake Knott and A.J. Klein has been on ISU's defensive wish list for a while now. When opposing offenses mandate, hybrid defender C.J. Morgan is the man at SAM, along with Deon Broomfield.

Prediction: Some opponents will still dictate that Iowa State play with five defensive backs, making Klein and Knott the two primary linebackers for the Cyclones in 2012. No news there. But with George now, ISU will definitely play more with three linebackers. Sophomore Jevohn Miller and senior Matt Morton get reps in relief.


Defensive Backs
The Cyclone secondary is unquestionably anchored by two returning starters - junior free safety Jacques Washington and senior cornerback Jeremy Reeves. Washington is the quarterback of the defense with a thoroughly knowledge of everything ISU does on that side of the ball. Reeves is skilled and talented with only one Achilles hell - his height. The other two starting spots are secured as well with junior Jansen Watson winning a CB job and senior Durrell Givens doing the same at strong safety.

Prediction: We know the starting four, but what else will Iowa State do with personnel in the secondary? Deon Broomfield will play some free safety in addition to lining up as the SAM or nickel. Jared Brackens played in 12 games as a true freshman and will see time at strong safety. Sam Richardson and Kenneth Lynn, both redshirt freshmen, have apparently locked down the no. 2 spots at corner and should be given some regular reps. Matt Thomas is also a possibility for snaps at corner.


Special Teams
The only big question for Iowa State's special teams coming out of fall camp is: who's the kicker? True freshman Cole Netten and junior walk-on Edwin Arceo have dueled through the pre-season and the matter isn't settled yet. Netten's available redshirt year throws another twist into the decision yet to be made. Junior Kirby Van Der Kamp is back for a third year as ISU's number one punter. Senior Josh Lenz is a clear number one punt returner and a trio of players could be back on kickoff returns.

Prediction: If Arceo and Netten are really neck-and-neck, then go with Arceo for the opener and see how he does in front of a real crowd in a real game. Keep Netten ready to go if Arceo struggles on Saturdays. Being able to redshirt Netten would be a somewhat unexpected blessing. But if he has to play this year, so be it. Jarvis West and Aaron Horne and the most likely top two kickoff return men, but don't forget about Albert Gary.




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