Updated: Jul 23
(Starters in bold)
Will McDonald IV
Isaiah Lee Or
Howard Brown/Tyler Onyedim
One of the best defensive players in the nation and Iowa State's all time sack leader, Will McDonald, decided to return to Iowa State and gives the Cyclones a huge boost this year. McDonald had 11.5 sacks and has 29 total over his career for the Cyclones. Even without playing every down, McDonald still dominates statistically. McDonald is already getting noticed across the country, as he just got named to The Sporting News Preseason All-American team:
Blake Peterson will look to get the start across from McDonald. Peterson saw some action last year and did well, totaling 6 tackles, 2 sacks and a pass deflection. At nose tackle, ISU has two very strong options with Isaiah Lee and J.R. Singleton. Singleton last season had 11 total tackles, along with a forced fumble. Lee had 21 total tackles along with 1.5 sacks. They will both get a lot of snaps with how often DC Jon Heacock likes to substitute and keep players fresh. That will be the same for the defensive end spot where you can expect to see Blake Peterson's brother in on some snaps along with the Minnesota transfer, MJ Anderson. At Minnesota, Anderson totaled 8 tackles, a sack and 2 pass deflections. There are also some exciting and talented freshman including Howard Brown and Jayden Gray who will look to get some snaps and experience.
Weak side Linebacker
Strong side Linebacker
Iowa State lost two huge linebackers after this past season, with the departures of Mike Rose and Jake Hummel to the NFL. However, O'Rien Vance deciding to return was huge for the Cyclones. Vance has been stellar in his Cyclone career, totaling 194 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Iowa State's biggest incoming transfer is ready to be the leader in the middle of Heacock's defense. Colby Reeder is coming to ISU from Delaware. The coaching staff seems to love Reeder and it looks like he will be one of the main guys on Iowa States defense this year. The veteran has 12 career total tackles and 5 career interceptions in his time with Delaware which has been plagued with plenty of injury. Here are some of his highlights:
Gerry Vaughn returns as well for the Cyclones after last season's breakout. Vaughn totaled 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks a season ago. While the linebacking crew does not substitute quite as much as the defensive line, look to see some action from Hunter Zenzen, Kendall Jackson and some other up and coming linebackers who also saw action last year.
Cornerbacks for ISU have been a question mark for the Cyclones for years, and it remains one entering the 2022-23 season. The Cyclones have plenty of talent at the cornerback position, but the question if will they be able to put it together. TJ Tampa had a solid year for the Cyclones last season, totaling 18 tackles and 3 pass deflection in his 2nd season. Myles Purchase burst on the scene last season as well, totaling 13 tackles and a pass defense. These guys look to be the day 1 starters, however, there is a ton of excitement around Darien Porter. The speedster from Bettendorf, IA began as a WR but switched to the cornerback role. Porter played some special teams last year for the Cyclones but it will be fun to see the tremendous athlete in his new role. Tayvonn Kyle will be another cornerback for the Cyclones, and he has the most experience of the group, with 60 total tackles during his career in Ames.
Anthony Johnson Jr.
Blake Thompson Or
The Cyclone safety room took a huge hit with the loss of Greg Eisworth and Isheem Young deciding to transfer. However, it looks like the safety room has reloaded. Converted cornerback Anthony Johnson Jr. and rising star Beau Freyler are ready to lead the way for the Cyclones. Anthony Johnson Jr. has been playing the corner position for the Cyclones for the past 4 seasons and has registered 183 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 24 pass breakups during his Cyclone career so far. This year he looks to take on a new challenge at the safety position. Freyler last season stepped up when he got the opportunity. He got the start against Clemson in the Cheez-it Bowl and showed out, recording 15 tackles and made some big stops. Cyclone fans are excited to see what Freyler can bring to the table.
Blake Thompson are Treyveon McGee are both new community college transfers for the Cyclones. Blake Thompson played last season for Blinn Community College where he starred, totaling 43 tackles. McGee played last season for Independence CC, as seen on the Netflix special, Last Chance U.
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