Iowa State graduated all of its contributors at the safety spot from 2017. It’s one position group that has a few question marks, but also a lot of young talent that is ready to explode this season.
No name is bigger than starting strong safety Greg Eisworth. The transfer from Ole Miss by way of Trinity Valley CC has three years to play for the Cyclones, and was a heralded 4-star recruit coming out of high school. This staff has been raving about Eisworth’s play in training camp, and he has some big shoes to fill, replacing 1st Team All-Big 12 selection Kamari Cotton-Moya.
The other spot will be supplanted by in-house talent, and ISU gained quality reps from two of those players, as both Lawrence White and Braxton Lewis played confidently in the Liberty Bowl win.
While the Cyclones lost both Cotton-Moya and underrated Reggie Wilkerson at the starting safety spot, they also lost a jack-of-all-trades defensive back in Ev’rett Edwards. Wilkerson picked up the scheme and playbook tremendously well in the short time he was here, and KCM was fantastic in run support, but a bit suspect in the deep passing game.
There are a bunch of them.
White and Lewis both saw the field in 2017, but none of them thought they would be starting against a top-5 passing attack in Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. Neither made major mistakes, and those extra snaps will prove to be crucial for the development of both youngsters.
Sophomore Lawrence White is slated to be the starting free safety, and is backed up by sophomore Jatairis Grant. While Braxton Lewis is listed as backup SS, and Keontae Jones as backup STAR, I project both to be vital in the 3-safety look that ISU put on the field in the latter half of last season. Both have good range and are versatile with their speed.
Leader of the Pack:
Greg Eisworth can lay the hammer down, and there is no one that has been talked up more in the offseason. Standing at 6-feet and 198 pounds, Eisworth got a great jump start to his Cyclone career by transferring to campus in January. Those extra reps loomed large, and Defensive Coordinator and Safeties coach Jon Heacock has put his trust in #11 to carry the back end of the defense.
I see a big year out of the transfer, and could see him vying for Conference Newcomer of the Year or 1st Team honors.
Braxton Lewis isn’t the flashiest player on the field, but he is always in the right place at the right time. Against Akron a year ago, Lewis played an efficient game, and has three years under his belt with this regime. He was named Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Year in 2015 while redshirting, and will most certainly be called upon for duty in 2018.
One of the biggest storylines coming out of last season was having to replace three quality senior safeties. Campbell and his staff made large strides with the transfer of Eisworth, and have an average group next to him. This defense has been founded upon solid fundamentals and no mental errors. I feel confident the players we have in the system can step up to the task, and will benefit greatly from the men in front of them, especially Iowa State’s vaunted defensive line.