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Iowa State Football National Signing Day 2017: The Defensive Backs

The Cyclones added a safety to a stable of young defensive backs as they look to build to the future.


Iowa State’s secondary was its strength in the 2016 season. However, the graduation of cornerbacks Jomal Wiltz and Nigel Tribune have left some playing time on the board for current players on the roster and recruits who are coming in with the current class.

For a long time, it looked like the prize recruit of the class of 2017 for ISU would be safety Kam White. That changed when White decided to de-commit from the Cyclones just a couple weeks before National Signing Day.

With White likely bound for Ole Miss following his de-commitment, the Iowa State coaching staff turned their attention to a prospect with a familiar name. Keontae Jones, brother of ISU wide receiver Deshaunte Jones, assumed the new position of top safety prospect for the Cyclones and ended up pledging his commitment on Monday night.

Who else will join Jones as the newcomers in the Cyclone secondary? That honor goes to the following guys...

Richard Bowens III

Bowens was a mid-year signee for Iowa State and hails from West Bloomfield, Michigan. At St. Mary’s High School, he helped lead the team to three consecutive state titles. Bowens is listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and was a 3-star prospect according to 247Sports.

Beyond Iowa State, Bowens held offers from Cincinnati, Iowa, Minnesota, Syracuse and more.


Bowens ran the 300 meter hurdles in high school, so you know he has blazing top-end speed. When faced with 1-on-1 press situations, his technique looked good, as he often got his head back around to spot the ball so he could ensure the receiver didn’t out-maneuver him in the air.


There were a couple times in his highlight video where I thought Bowens was stuck in “deer in the headlights” mode trying to react to who had the ball coming out of the backfield. He’ll have to work on reacting to situations like that if he wants to provide good run support in college. Also, as with many prospects out of high school, he’ll have to add some muscle to avoid getting pushed around by some of the bigger receivers in the Big 12.

Keontae Jones

Jones is the highest-rated defensive back recruit in Iowa State’s class (.8624 according to the 247Sports Composite). Projected as a safety, Jones played ball at Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A 3-star prospect, Jones stands at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds. His offer listed included Indiana, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, West Virginia, and more.


Jones returned punts in high school and could turn into a ballhawk safety at ISU. If he gets the ball in his hands, there’s a good chance it’ll be returned for a nice chunk of yards. At safety, Jones typically makes the correct first step, which can make or break a play at the college level.


There aren’t any glaring weaknesses with Jones’ game, but he’ll have to learn Iowa State’s system before he can see significant playing time.

OJ Tucker

Ocala, Florida is the home of 3-star cornerback OJ Tucker. The 6-foot-1, 190 pounder played for Vanguard High School and had offers from Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina and others.


Tucker already has 20 pounds on fellow cornerback signee Richard Bowens III, which will help him avoid getting stiff-armed away by receivers from day one. He makes good use of his hands at the line of scrimmage and forces incompletions by tracking down receivers and knocking the ball out of their hands multiple times in his highlight video.


There were a few times in which receivers got behind him when watching his reel, and with more accurate passers in college, that could mean giving up some big plays. Tucker will have to work on staying even with receivers or he’ll have some “uh oh” moments.

Datrone Young

Young is the smallest addition to the Cyclone defensive backfield at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds. But don’t let that make you think he can’t eventually contribute (just ask former Cyclone Jeremy Reeves).

Atlantic High School is where Young played prep ball and he hails from Delray Beach, Florida. Additional offers for Young included Rutgers, USF, Western Michigan, Wisconsin and a few others.


Despite his small stature, Young shows the ability to shed blocks and take down ball carriers. You have to be a good tackler as a “small guy” in college. He also exhibits a good sense of “high pointing” the ball, which can make him play bigger than his listed height and weight.


Young’s technique looks good, but as mentioned, he’s going to have to battle against guys who are a good 6-7 inches taller than him in the Big 12. There will be times where he’s outmatched simply because of his size.

2017 Defensive Back Outlook

Kamari Cotton-Moya and Mike Johnson should return to man the safety positions for Iowa State in 2017. Additionally, Brian Peavy returns as one of the best cover corners in the Big 12. The other cornerback spot is up for grabs. D’Andre Payne could get more run there after playing the “Star” position for ISU’s defense in 2016. Another name to keep an eye on is Thadd Daniels, who played in 10 games in 2016.

My expectation is that all four of the defensive backs listed in this article will redshirt in 2016, but if one of them were to play, I’d say the guy with the best chance is Keontae Jones based on talent alone.

Do you think any of the DBs in this class will play as a true freshman? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.