As we continue our 2023 defensive season preview, up next is the safeties. Iowa State is replacing a lot on the defensive side of the ball, but safety is a position that actually has some returning contributors. The secondary should be the strongest position group, and these guys will more than pull their own weight.
Unfortunately we have to start with a huge loss. Anthony Johnson moved from corner to safety for the 2022 season and managed another All-Big 12 performance. He had 60 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 PBUs, and one very memorable forced fumble while breaking the program record for career starts before ultimately being selected in the 7th round of the NFL Draft by the Packers.
Mason Chambers played in all 12 games last season and started 2 games before leaving via the transfer portal.
Myles Norwood redshirted in 2022 but should be in position to play this fall. He’s another great athlete who ran track at Iowa Western before transferring.
Drew Surges has gotten a ton of hype over the last couple weeks of camp, almost out of nowhere. He’s joining the Cyclones as a walk-on from Chicago. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of him until this clip got shared, and I’m sold.
Jamison Patton comes to Iowa State from nearby Ankeny high school as a 3 star recruit who was on the DMR’s All-Iowa Elite team. Patton is a super athlete who played both ways and was JJ Kohl’s leading receiver. He could be a threat break into the rotation just on pure potential.
Leaders of the Pack
We have to start with Beau Freyler. The now junior emerged in 2021 to become a starter by the end of the season on an absolutely loaded defense. He took his game to another level in 2022, with 68 tackles and an interception on his way to an honorable mention All-Big 12 performance. Freyler was a team representative at Big 12 media day this year, if that gives any indication of how important the staff thinks he is.
Jeremiah Cooper is also back after starting 7 games as a true freshman. He also made honorable mention All-Big 12 and could have done even more before getting injured and missing the last 3 games of the year.
Lastly, Malik Verdon started 2 games in September before missing the rest of the season to injury and should return to a starting spot.
As long as everyone stays healthy, which hasn’t been the case over the last few years, Freyler, Verdon, and Cooper should be as good as any combo in the conference. The question is what happens if someone goes down with injury or what happens when those guys need a break. I’ll buy the hype with Drew Surges becoming a contributor and earning himself a scholarship. Shoot, maybe the local product Patton also sees the field early. The safety position in the Jon Heacock defense isn’t always the flashiest, but knowing the system, this group will do their job well to keep as much in front of them as possible and making the necessary plays. Freyler make an all-conference team as one of the better defensive players in the Big 12.