The line as a whole might have underperformed this year, but strictly due to how high expectations were. Ja’Quan Bailey and Ray Lima were poised for 1st Team All Big-12 seasons (Lima made 2nd team all Big 12), but the newcomers would be the story of the season.
The D-Line returned almost all of their talent from the 2018 season. Ray Lima, Ja’Quan Bailey, Jamal Johnson, Eyioma Uwazurike, and Matt Leo. Going into the season, it seemed the story around the defensive line would be Bailey chasing the all-time sack record. Bailey would be sidelined and redshirted after a leg injury. In his place, Zach Petersen had a breakout season for the Cyclones and cemented himself as an integral part of the Cyclones defense.
Zach Petersen led all defensive linemen in tackles, 41, and two forced fumbles that tied a team high. Petersen wasn’t the pass rushing threat that Ja’Quan Bailey was in 2018, but Iowa State had a newcomer that filled that role as well.
Will McDonald is a hyper-athletic defensive end with great size. He has NFL potential for his pass rushing ability, especially if he can maintain a high motor when it’s not 3rd and long. He tallied 6 sacks on the year and has a chance to break Bailey’s career sack record as soon as he sets it.
Eyioma Uwazurike and Ray Lima were the best returning linemen in Bailey’s absence. Both don’t blow you away with their stats, but they wear down a lineman overtime. Lima demanded double teams early in the year for the run block. Jamal Johnson also had a handful of games where he came in and played great at defensive tackle.
Ja’Quan Bailey, Zach Petersen, Will McDonald, Eyioma Uwazurike, and JUCO transfer La’Trell Bankston make a great core for the D-Line in the upcoming season. Iowa State has more returning on the line, but in the middle of the line there are still some question marks.
The 2020 class brought in Willis Singleton and Latrell Bankston. Singleton had offers from schools like Michigan State and Louisville before picking Iowa State, adding some much need depth to the tackle spot. Bankston was a top JUCO prospect, and has the chops to come in and play right away.
Isaac Lee and Joshua Bailey, Ja’Quan’s brother, are the upperclassmen that could fill that role. Unless someone blows Campbell and the coaching staff away this spring or training camp, all four guys will get a shot to prove themselves early in the upcoming season.