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Wherever the Defensive Line Goes, So Does Iowa State’s Record

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Iowa State comes in to 2014 with question marks on the defensive line again. Can they overcome it and have a successful season?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's Note: jwillyISU is one of the new writers selected from our rigorous campaign to inject fresh blood into WRNL's ranks.  We'll have an introductory post in the near future introducing him and the others that made it through our hazing.

Hog Mollies, The Steel Curtain, Run Stoppers, Big Blue Wrecking Crew, Monsters of the Midway

These are all terms defining the biggest, ugliest and meanest players on a football field. Probably not the sexiest, but they are definitely one of the most influential positions for any football squad.

Do you need more overall mass? Or depth? How about speed around the end to get to the quarterback? These are the questions that college football coaches ask themselves to design schemes stopping today's new age of spread offenses. (Unless you are still stuck in the 70s and play smashmouth football like the Big Ten). And when they make recruiting trips to meet with mamas and papas, (dad's usually not there) the defensive line is one of the most sought after positions to recruit.

If I were to ask any of you Cyclone fans - what is the most important position for this team - year in and year out, most would say quarterback. Some would say offensive line. Maybe running back. Some would mention defense, but never a particular position.

In my honest opinion, the most important position for Paul Rhoads and his mighty Clones is the Defensive Line. Swarm and Punish!

The strongest conference in the country (without a shade of doubt) is the SEC. Every year they get the best recruits, and every year we watch them trounce whatever Big Ten foe decides to play them in their "January" bowls. The record clearly shows that this conference is far superior to others, but why? Sure they have good QB play, but there are far more prolific passers in the Big 12. Sure they have some of the top talent in the country - but what sets them apart are the hog mollies on the D-LINE.

The SEC tends to be a league dominated in the trenches. They were also the first to come out with coaches specifically coaching Defensive Tackles AND Defensive Ends. Run the Ball. Stop the Run. If there is anything you needed to learn in the south (other than that drawl), it's those two things. Because, honestly, all they care about is football. Well, and maybe kissing their cousin.

Three of the last four years (AND this year on top of that), Rivals ranked the top overall High School prospect a Defensive End. In fact, 21 of Rivals Top 100 for this 2015 class are Defensive Linemen. And the last four years, an average of 20 players in the Top 100 graced the defensive line. Now, its more important than ever. D-Ends and D-Tackles are more sought after than a beer in the parking lot after a kick-to-the-stomach loss.

Iowa State's most successful teams had some of the best defensive lines in our school's history. Do you remember the days of Ryan Harklau, James Reed and Reggie Hayward leading ISU to its first bowl victory and school record 9-3 season in 2000? Reed and Hayward made the big leagues too. In the Seneca days, we had Jordan Carstens, (who also made NFL). In the Meyer and Blythe days, we had Nick Leaders, Brent Big Play Curvey and Jason Berryman.

In 2010, ISU needed a jolt in their pass rush and brought in a little known player named Jacob Lattimer against Texas. All he did was make 2 sacks and force a fumble. That disruption changed the dynamic of the game, and put pressure right back on Texas. They didn't respond, and ISU won in Austin for the first time in school history.

Playing defensive line is like being a tax accountant. They never grab your attention, they just do work. Your CPA could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars, and he is never the guy that gets invited out for a few drinks. He just gets paid, and you don't call him again, for another 12 months.

They do all the dirty work, and never get the headlines. They are the fat kid at the lunch table. The guy that doesn't even have a stat for making a good play in the box score.

Last year, of the teams that finished ranked in the top ten, seven were in the top 55 of rush defenses, and five in the top 32. The year before, nine of the top ten were 48th or better in rush defense, and 6 were in the top 14. In fact, in the last four years, there has consistently been between 4 and 6 Top Ten teams that were ranked in the top 15 in rush defense.

Remember that Oregon team that was scoring more points than Derek Jeter was bringing home perfect 10 models a few years back? They dashed and darted their way to a 12-0 record, and into the National Championship game against Auburn and the flying Cheesedicks. Scam Newton and Nick I Like To Smoke Weed Fairley came out victorious, but we all know why that game was won. Gene Chizik. LOL, no it was their run defense. After playing Cupcakes on their schedule, Oregon had averaged a whopping 304 rushing yards per game. They came out of Glendale, AZ that night with 75.

Buzz, your girlfriend, woof.

Ok jwillyISU, you say run defenses correlate to wins. Well how about pass defense. That should count for something, shouldn't it? From the words of I hope to be the late great Lee Corso, Not So Fast My Friend! On average the last three years, the top ten run defenses have a record of 8.9-4.1 (so basically 9-4). The top ten pass defenses over that same time period? 7.6-5.1. For all you math heads at home, that's a 2.3 win disparity.

ISU's best records are tied with their best run defenses and the strength of their defensive line. Now lets hope Brandon Jensen, Devlyn Cousin, Mitchell Meyers, Trent Taylor and Cory Morrissey can come through. Because if they don't, it's going to be a LONG SEASON.