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2021 Iowa State Position Previews: Cornerbacks

One of the few question marks.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Oregon vs Iowa State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our 2021 Iowa State football position previews, where we’ll be spending the last two weeks of the offseason previewing each position group for the 2021 team. Today we’re looking at the cornerbacks.

Departures

A rarity in every position group, two corners will not be returning to Ames this fall. Lawrence White IV started his pro career, and Arnold Azunna is using his last year of eligibility at the University of Hawaii. Azunna’s role got smaller as the season went on, but White’s left some giant shoes to fill.

New Guys

Myles Purchase is the only addition to the CB room, but he’s a freak athlete that could find himself as one of the first guys off the bench. The 3-star prospect is out of Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colorado. He excelled on both sides of the football in his glory days, which very well could help him find a spot on the field.

Leader of The Pack

It seems like we’re reaching Perry Ellis levels of eligibility with the entire senior class, and Anthony Johnson has been here forever. Earning Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2019 and 2020, Johnson has established himself as one of the top corners in the conference. He’s also one of the best open field tacklers this team has to offer. Entering his senior campaign, he has 128 total tackles, 10.0 TFL, 2 FF, and 20 pass breakups.

Iowa State v West Virginia Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

I know that the best corners have no stats, but will Anthony Johnson finally get an interception in 2021? Either way, having a corner that learned everything they knew from Brian Peavy is an incredible thing to have, as Johnson has slowly become one of the smartest guys on the defense.

Backups

After Anthony Johnson, there really is a little bit of question as to who will see the field. Does Heacock go with some experience and in someone like Datrone Young, Kym-Mani King or Tayvonn Kyle? Or do we see a lot of new guys like TJ Tampa, Myles Purchase or Michal Antoine? TJ Tampa might be the most exciting player on the entire roster, so him finding his way onto the field would be awesome from a fan perspective, but Jon Heacock likely doesn’t care what I think.

With Anthony Johnson being the only set in stone starter and having some issues on the opposite side of him last season, there are a lot of directions his counterpart could go. It’s a very similar situation to the receiver situation on the offensive side of the ball, where there’s one “dude” and the #2 spot is up for grabs. Who is going to step up?

2021 Predictions

I think we find our answer for corner numero dos around the time non-conference play wraps up. I would not be at all surprised to see some sort of rotation in the first 3 games, but anything beyond that would make me worry a little bit.

Anthony Johnson is going to lock down his side, making it even more important that the other side is near the same level as him, otherwise we start to see a corner get picked on for a whole game. I’ve been saying it for three years now and I’m speaking it into existence: Anthony Johnson is a 1st-Team All-Big 12 guy. Run it back.

The corner position very well might be the weakest point of the team (not because they’re bad but because every other position is loaded), so whether or not the #2, 3, 4 corners can make plays very well could determine the outcome of a top-ten Cyclone football team.