Iowa State returns two of the finest cornerbacks of the past decade back for their senior seasons in 2018. The back end of the defense is anchored by Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne, and boy, are they good.
Peavy has been named to the 1st Team All-Preseason by the media in the Big 12, and Payne earned Honorable Mention honors a year ago. Both are solid veterans, who have a plethora of young talent behind them in the defensive backfield.
If there is anything that fires up Matt Campbell it’s an athletic, versatile, tall and speedy cornerback. And ISU has lots of them waiting in the wings.
The Cyclones didn’t lose any true cornerbacks from a year ago, but they did lose do-it-all STAR position player Ev’rett Edwards to graduation. Edwards was solid in run support, and could play any position, from the outside to the slot, and his versatility will be missed.
There are multiple freshman and sophomores yearning for a chance to get on the field, and all come in with high grades in the recruiting rankings. Arnold Azunna, Keontae Jones, Datrone Young and Richard Bowens III were all 3- or 4-star recruits with an impressive list of offers coming out of high school. Azunna and Bowens III are primed to take over both spots on the outside, while Young is known for his speed in the slot, and Keontae Jones was born to play the STAR role.
Not exactly a new face, but one who has certainly earned his role is senior De’Monte Ruth. Playing mostly on the special teams, Ruth gained more playing time as the 2017 season went along, and will take over the role at nickel-back that ISU uses most frequently against the pass-happy teams of the Big 12.
“The Block” (2017) feat. De’Monte Ruth pic.twitter.com/sppq0DcTRq— Iowa State Athletics (@CycloneATH) October 14, 2017
Leader(s) of the Pack:
The bash brothers Payne and Peavy are both lockdown corners who can hold their own on the outside.
Peavy had an outstanding year in ’17, as he graded out as the 11th-best cornerback in the game according to PFF. Through 12 regular-season games, the Texas native gave up only 24 catches and 244 yards. After flirting with the NFL, #10 is back in uniform and will make his mark covering most opponents’ best receiver.
D’Andre Payne, who transferred in from Tennessee via Arizona Western CC, is a bit undersized, but has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. One of my favorite plays is the interception he had against West Virginia a year ago. Just look at the tenacity.
Barring any injuries from our two studs, I just think the talent from Keontae Jones is too good to keep the redshirt freshman off the field. The 4-star recruit, and brother to Deshaunte, Jones has a good build to play at the nickel at 6-feet and 173 pounds.
Cornerbacks coach D.K. McDonald loves to play his athletes all over the field, and I think Jones can play both in the slot and on the outside. He has the closing speed to recover, and the frame for quality run support.
Not far behind him are Richard Bowens III and Datrone Young. Both were track stars in high school, and will help the Cyclone secondary with depth, especially when they implore a dime or nickel packages to take advantage of more speed on the field against 4- and 5-wide sets.
ISU carries with it two of the best corners in the league, if not the country. Peavy will impress the NFL scouts with his pass coverage, and Payne will probably see more balls thrown his way because of it. Both are outstanding at open-field tackling, and will have to be if ISU plays more of a 3-man front, which they are capable of doing.
Look for multiple formations and different blitz packages as well as DC Jon Heacock finds tendencies in certain schemes to utilize the speed on the outside.
Ladies and gentlemen, this secondary is stacked with as much depth and talent as I have seen in a LONG TIME.