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2023 Iowa State Football Position Preview: Defensive Line

A group with lots of depth and even more promise

Syndication: The Ames Tribune Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK


The group is headlined by the departure of senior Isiah Lee due to his gambling activity, a loss that looks large for this team.

Will McDonald IV is the headline departure, ending Iowa State’s first round draft pick streak by becoming a member of the New York Jets. Lineman MJ Anderson also departed, signing as a UDFA with the Seattle Seahawks. Both departures will have a significant impact on the defensive line, but plenty of depth remains ready to fill the void.

New Guys

The headline additions here are both transfers. Tobechi Okoli, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Auburn, was rated the #25 defensive end out of high school. He comes in at 6’5”, 285, and projects to add immediate depth and size. Junior Jefferson Adam came in as a top 25 nationally rated JUCO player at Hocking College and should also provide more depth on the edge.

There are also some freshmen joining the program. David Caulker comes in as a top-10 player from Iowa in the 2023 class and could be in the mix for some playing time. Samuel Same’, a freshman from Wichita, Kansas, enrolled early and saw some playing time in the spring. Rounding out the class are freshmen Zaimir Hawk and Anthony Cunningham.

Leader of the Pack

There really isn’t one defined here, but there are several good players at this position. Joey Peterson returns, who played in all 12 games as a backup in 2022. Junior J.R. Singleton appeared in 9 games last year, starting 7, and was solid when he played.

Garnering the most excitement at this position group is undoubtedly Domonique Orange. The 6’4”, 335-pound sophomore forced his way onto the field last season, appearing in all 12 games. He stopped the run very effectively in 2022 and is poised to become a force on the defensive line.

Syndication: The Ames Tribune Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Backups

Depth is strong at this position, with numerous young players ascending to playing time in 2022, a trend you can expect to continue in 2023. Jefferson Adam will provide depth at end along with RFR Ikenna Ezeogu, Samuel Same, Trent Jones Jr., and part-time linebacker Myles Mendeszoon seeing occasional snaps. Of those three, Ezeogu shows real promise to break out and got lots of spring reps, and Same saw spring action after enrolling early. At defensive line, Singleton can rotate inside and add depth, and he will be joined by redshirt sophomore Tyler Onyedim, who played with the ones during spring ball and played in all 12 games in 2022.


Defensive line looks to be one of the most competitive groups on the roster, with some combination of Okoli, Orange, Singleton, and junior Joey Peterson projected to start in Iowa State’s 3-man front. Expect a rotation of players in and out due to the amount of depth at this position, a luxury most Cyclone fans once thought impossible for this program. Even without Lee, there is plenty of talented depth, though it is mostly unproven. While there is no clear star, youngsters like Orange, Ezepgu, Onyedim are breakthrough candidates, and there is plenty of experience and depth in front of them to lead the way.

This group should be solid with a high floor and a lofty ceiling this upcoming season.