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2020 Position Recap: Defensive Secondary

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A Solid Showing, and Retains Nearly Everyone

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Iowa State Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State’s secondary has had a consistency to it for quite some time. Really, the only player Iowa State lost that was noticeable from 2019 to 2020 was Braxton Lewis who played Strong Safety. Greg Eisworth played solid football, and was super reliable all year, but it was another breakout safety who drew some eyeballs, and some bullshit whistles in 2020.

2020 Season

Greg Eisworth had two First Team All-Big 12 Honors coming into the season, and he went ahead and added one more. Eisworth is a great tackler in open space, and very rarely gets exposed in the passing game. When Tarique Milton was injured he also returned punts, and all though he wasn’t much of a big play threat, he rarely so much as juggled a catch, or fair caught one he shouldn’t have. Eisworth has turned into one of my favorite players on this defense, he does everything the right way. Also, if his numbers are a bit more gaudy this next year, he could be an All-American.

The flashy, big hit playmaker, is Iowa State’s other safety, Isheem Young. This guy is a bottle of adrenaline on a Vegas bender. Young ooh’d and ahh’d as only a freshman, and his expectations should be pretty high coming into next year. His targeting ejection felt like a gut punch in the Big 12 Championship game, and a couple plays later OU’s Spencer Rattler rocketed one over the middle exactly where Young would’ve been.

(Sidenote: Targeting is a stupid rule, and guys should only be ejected if there’s a level of malicious intent, such as a flagrant foul in basketball. Basically, if it’s a football move, you shouldn’t be ejected for playing football.)

As far as the corners go it was a bit of a roller coaster, play to play, kind of season. Anthony Johnson played very well in his junior season, and he could be an All Conference guy as a Senior. The other two corners that we’ve seen quite a bit of are Tayvonn Kyle and Datrone Young.

Those two were a little more up and down. Inconsistency was a common theme, Young especially getting exposed on the deep ball from time to time. Both guys are returning, and hopefully can play at a high level at all times.

The sole starter leaving in this group is Lawrence White who had a good final season in 2020, as to who his replacement will be, that’ll be a cornerback competition over the summer. The candidates are likely Mason Chambers, Craig McDonald, and a Darkhorse to keep an eye on is TJ Tampa.

TJ Tampa was a wide receiver in high school and made the switch in a year that had little training before the season started, so we didn’t see much of him. He also had an absolutely ridiculous basketball highlight reel in high school, his athleticism, speed is there, I think it’ll just be experience and reps before we see him in heavy dosage. Hopefully, he retains his ballhawking hands from his wide receiver days.

Defensive seconday stats

Player Name Solo Tackles Assissted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Interceptions Passes Deflected
Player Name Solo Tackles Assissted Tackles Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Interceptions Passes Deflected
Greg Eisworth 31 18 49 1.5 0 1 1 4
Isheem Young 35 19 54 2 3 0 1 3
Lawrence White 40 24 64 1.5 0 1 1 2
Datrone Young 20 10 30 1 0 0 0 2
Tayvonn Kyle 20 8 28 2 0 0 1 6
Anthony Johnson 22 20 42 2 0 0 0 5
Arnold Azunna 15 14 29 0.5 1 0 0 1

Expectations for 2021

Eisworth coming back for his super senior season was a huge bonus, not that this secondary really even needed it. The secondary is as deep as it’s ever been and if Kyle and Young can play consistently, everyone stays healthy, this will be a really solid group, highlighted by two amazing safeties. Hopefully we’ll be talking about TJ Tampa, for all the right reasons, by the end of the next season too.