Matt Campbell loves his defensive backs, and he garnered four quality recruits today on early national signing day. The Cyclones lose three starting safeties from a year ago, but bring back both starting cornerbacks. With the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 Conference, this staff enjoys getting as much speed on the field as possible, and all three of these commitments have the opportunity to play in 2018.
Greg Eisworth – Texas (JUCO)
We start with an early enrollee, who has three years to play three, and comes to ISU from junior college by way of Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. Eisworth originally signed with Ole Miss out of high school, but spent the last year honing his craft at Trinity Valley.
He immediately steps into a position of need, as ISU loses its rock at the strong safety position in Kamari Cotton-Moya. Eisworth stands 6-feet tall, and weighs 195 pounds, and is a quick-twitch player who can get to the ball quickly. He was the 2nd highest rated JUCO safety, and chose the Cyclones over offers from West Virginia, Houston, Colorado and Colorado State.
Eisworth isn’t necessarily a big hitter and run stopping-specialist like Kamari-Cotton-Moya, but he will likely be a better pass coverage option than KCM given his advantage in quickness. I hate to make this comparison, but a really good analogy/potential for Eisworth is former TOE safety Micah Hyde. Over his career, Hyde made a name for himself as a ball hawk, with 35 pass deflections and 13 interceptions. As Eisworth gets comfortable in the 3-2-6/3-3-5 system and gets more aggressive, I think Micah Hyde would be a good benchmark to shoot for.
Anthony Johnson, Jr. – Florida
Iowa State commit Anthony Johnson Jr. on the Cyclones' 2017 season and what's ahead when he and the 2018 class sign Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/J4SCxBmlSM— Alex Halsted (@AlexHalsted) December 19, 2017
The Cyclones continue their quest of defensive backs from the state of Florida, as Anthony Johnson, Jr. joins the 2018 class. This 6-foot-1 cornerback has a knack for getting to the ball, as he corralled 15 interceptions and 29 pass breakups in his high school career.
Johnson comes from St. Petersburg, Florida, and had to miss a few games his senior year due to hurricanes. It didn’t slow his recruiting progress down, as he is ranked as a top-100 cornerback, and chose ISU over Marshall, Southern Miss, USF and Western Michigan.
He is a three-star prospect and will have every opportunity to see the field in the fall.
Since the league became pass-happy in the late 2000s, the Big 12 had tended to have smaller than average corners to cover all of the speedy wide receivers. However, in the last few years, taller cornerbacks have started to become a little trendy. While 6’1” isn’t abnormally tall, Johnson does seem to play a little bit bigger than his frame, and has a good nose for the football.
A good comparison for him would be someone like D’Andre Payne. Johnson is a little taller and is probably more aggressive than Payne, but I see a lot of similarities in their balance of coverage skill and run support. One of Payne’s best attributes is the ability to make open field tackles in both the running game and screen game, and I see a lot of the same out of Anthony Johnson Jr..
Jaeveyon Morton - Michigan
Jaeveyon Morton’s recruiting picked up steam early, but after committing to the Cyclones in June, he stuck to his guns. Morton hails from Detroit, Michigan and has speed for days. The 5-foot-9 defensive back is a perfect cover corner for shiftier slot receivers in the Big 12, as evident by his video.
He ranks as a top-85 cornerback, and could see time right away on the field with special teams. Morton unofficially visited “That Team Out East,” and also had an offer from Indiana, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Pitt, Syracuse, Toledo, and Western Michigan.
He is a 3-star recruit according to 247, and ranks as the seventh-best prospect in this class.
Morton’s 5’9” frame put him about on par with the rest of the corners in the Big 12, but his speed and quickness will allow him to cover all sorts of different receivers. With speed to burn and a ball hawking attitude, Jaeveyon Morton very well could be a second coming of Cyclone favorite Ellis Hobbs.
Hobbs made a name for himself as a ball hawking cover corner during his time at Iowa State after switching from running back coming out of high school. Before launching a successful 7ish year career in the NFL, Hobbs made the biggest play of his college career with a game sealing interception in the 2004 Independence Bowl.
Dallas Taylor-Cortez - California
Taylor-Cortez was offered by this Cyclone staff in May, but waited until the end of September to make his commitment. This taller than average cornerback (listed at 6-foot-3), had offers from multiple high quality Power-5 programs in Arizona, Utah, Washington State, and Utah.
He follows the mantra of this program as a tailor-made hybrid defensive back, but projects to play corner at the next level. Taylor-Cortez hails from California, and is ranked as a top-80 CB and 3-star recruit.
He has all the size to play multiple positions, and the body ready to play as a freshman.
Another one of those trendy tall corners, Taylor-Cortez has the versatility to play all over the field. Iowa State hasn’t had very many tall cornerbacks, so I’ll have to venture to other programs or the NFL to find a good comparison. At 6’3” he would tie for the tallest cornerback in the NFL with a handful of other guys, including Richard Sherman, who probably jump started the trend towards taller corners.
I watched some college tape of these taller corners and there were two common denominators. First, none of them were all that great in college. Sherman, for example, looked fairly pedestrian at Stanford. He was good as a pure cover corner, but at or below average in pretty much every other part of the game. However, the other common denominator with these taller corners is that the successful ones are all known for having elite work ethics.
The biggest advantage these taller cornerbacks have over their 5’10” brethren is their ability to be physical and contend with taller receivers. Campbell & Co. preach work ethic every single day, so if Taylor-Cortez buys in and really works on his technique and physicality, especially in run support, he could absolutely be the shutdown corner that can turn a good defense into an elite defense.