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Signing Day Recap: Defensive Line

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Will McDonald highlights a solid group of defensive lineman.

The first commit of the 2018 class was Will McDonald out of Wisconsin, and his recruitment took off from there. Iowa State was able to add a few pieces around him to get a decent haul across the defensive line in the 2018 class.

Will McDonald - Wisconsin

Will McDonald was the first commit for 2018, and he shut down his recruitment soon after. McDonald had another offer from New Mexico, and interest from Wisconsin and Auburn at the time of shutting things down. Had he kept entertaining offers, he may have had multiple offers from Power 5 schools after a great senior season.

Before the season began this year, McDonald was viewed as a defensive end with raw skill. His senior year changed that thinking around the country very quickly. He has a large wingspan and great speed, and also spent time at wide receiver during his junior season.

Player Comparison

Will McDonald comes into Iowa State as a tall, but lean defensive with lots of raw ability. He’s the perfect candidate for a redshirt, as two full offseasons in a college weight room should help him add on the 20+ pounds of muscle he’ll need before he can really compete at the Big 12 level. His best ISU player comparison is former Cyclone defensive impact player Shawn Moorehead.

Moorehead currently holds the single season sack record at Iowa State, and was an absolute terror off the edge. However, coming out of Mason City, Moorehead walked on to the team as a 200 pound linebacker. Fast forward a few years, and Moorehead added 50 pounds to his frame and became an elite pass rusher. Will McDonald has a lot more raw skill, and 15 more pounds, to work with than Moorehead, so his dedication to adding weight and honing his craft will determine how far he can go. If he does everything the staff asks him to do, he has a chance to be really, really good.

Isaiah Lee - Illinois

Iowa State has struggled with defensive line depth, and Isaiah Lee should help that cause in the coming years. Lee had offers from Colorado State, Ball State, and Central Michigan. Lee is the 67th ranked defensive tackle in the 2018 class.

Lee could very well have a chance to crack some playing time in his freshman campaign. He posses the great size and physicality it takes to play in the interior defensive line. Depending on the type of defensive front John Heacock uses in the 2018, season depth could come to be a major factor, and Lee could find himself right in the middle of it all.

Player Comparison

At 6’2” and 295 lbs, Isaiah Lee already has the size needed to contribute immediately at the nose tackle position. He’s really quick off the ball, and has the potential to be more than just a run stopper in the Big 12. Demond Tucker will have some recency-based comparisons, but Tucker was most effective when clogging up the middle of the line to stop the run. The first Iowa State player Lee reminded me of was Brent “Big Play” Curvey.

Brent Curvey made his name at Iowa State by scoring three defensive touchdowns in his career, with two fumble returns and one interception return. Beyond the big plays, he was a consistent force in pass rush and did a solid job in stopping the run. Isaiah Lee has a upside to be much better than Brent Curvey, but I think it’s a good place to start.

Zach Peterson - Iowa

Zach Peterson is a legacy player for Iowa State. His father Troy was a two time All Big Eight defensive end for Iowa State from 1991-94. Though Peterson has his father’s legacy to contend with, he will set out to create his own. Make no mistake Iowa State, didn’t offer him because of his father. Peterson also held offers from Kansas State and Illinois.

Peterson built quite the reputation for himself during his senior season. Many say that his film is the best out there for a defensive end in the state of Iowa. Peterson is also a wrestler, and has a built in motor that allows him to create pressure on his own. I think Iowa State fans are going to want to stay tuned into his development as a Cyclone. He will be making an impact before we know it.

Player Comparison

At 6’5” 225 lbs, Zach Peterson has the size to at least get some early playing time, but there’s a chance he could redshirt to add on another 10-20 pounds of muscle. Beyond his physical tools, Peterson’s greatest assets are the motor and toughness he surely gets from his wrestling background. Peterson is a tough son-of-a-gun, and will be paying rent in opponents backfields before long. Peterson falls somewhere between Jason Berryman and Jake Lattimer from a play-style perspective.

Jason Berryman was an absolutely dominant defensive end in the mid-2000s for Dan McCarney, paving the way to Cyclone victory in the 2004 Independence Bowl over the Miami (OH) Redhawks.

Jake Lattimer, a JUCO transfer for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, was well known for being an absolute animal. His game wasn’t particularly refined, but he played with a motor and toughness that I still don’t know if I’ve seen out of a Cyclone defensive lineman since then. On plenty of occasions, Lattimer would make a TFL or sack just out of sheer willpower.

Early in his career, I see Peterson being almost an exact replica of Jake Lattimer, before evolving into a Jason Berryman by the end of his career after adding about 30 pounds of muscle and refining his technique. His potential lines him up squarely with a shot at the NFL.