Yesterday, we touched on the offensive verbal commits to ISU; today, we go to the other side of the ball. Iowa State has a lot of returning players in their defensive two-deeps next season - nine starters to be exact. But they're getting some reinforcements as well.
This defensive class has a number of commits who rank in the top-100 by position, and is the main reason why the 2016 class might be one of the best for Iowa State in quite some time.
So far, ISU has corralled nine verbal commits on the defensive side of the ball.
2016 ISU Verbal Commits - Defense
DE Eyioma Uwazurike
We start with the best name on the list - one I can't pronounce. Uwazurike is a defensive end from Lathrup Village, Michigan, and is a raw athlete with tons of potential. Standing at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Uwazurike has great athleticism and is someone who will benefit greatly from a redshirt.
The stud defensive end is a 3-star recruit, and was a previous commit to Toledo before the coaching staff came to Iowa State. He is ranked as the 48th best defensive end by Scout, and chose ISU over Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Kent State.
CB/ATH Lawrence White
White is a carryover from the Rhoads staff, and Campbell and company honored his commitment. He has been loyal to the Cyclones since September, and projects to play in the defensive backfield. White went to the same high school (Bakersfield, California) as Iowa State's Kamari Cotton-Moya and Sheldon Croney.
White is a 3-star recruit, is ranked as the 120th best cornerback in the 2016 class, and chose the good guys over Colorado State, Washington State and Nevada. He is an oversized corner, listed at an even 6 feet tall.
CB Arnold Azunna
Azunna is another 6-foot cornerback who originally committed to Rhoads' staff. He is currently listed as a soft verbal at ISU, and was recruited by running backs coach Louis Ayeni. He's a physical corner who is also 185 pounds, and is ranked as the 72nd best player at his position in the 2016 class.
The 3-star recruit has currently chosen the Cyclones over Illinois, Colorado State, Air Force, Nevada and Fresno State.
CB/Safety Jatairis Grant
Grant hails from Akron, Ohio and lived smack dab in the middle of Toledo country. He was a former Rockets commit that switched over to ISU in early December. The 6-foot, 185-pound stud projects to play free safety at the next level, and has the size for it.
Grant is a 3-star, is ranked as the 116th best at his position, and chose ISU over Cincinnati, Kent State, Ball State, Toledo and Bowling Green.
CB/Safety Romelo Webster
Yet another cornerback, Webster comes from the Sunshine State. He had some of the best Power 5 offers of the group - Pittsburgh and Oregon State - while also claiming offers from Cincinnati, South Florida and Toledo. Cincinnati once had a commitment from the defensive back, but he flipped to the Cyclones just a day after visiting Ames. He was offered a scholarship at ISU within 24 hours of Matt Campbell becoming the new coach.
The 3-star recruit out of Hallandale, FL is listed as the 153rd best player at his position and is projected to play corner or safety in college.
LB Tymar Sutton
Sutton was another quick offer once Campbell came to ISU and a flying friend to Romelo Webster, as the two visited Ames on the same weekend. Sutton comes by way of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and is ranked as the #3 outside linebacker in the state. He was a point of emphasis for the new staff, and it showed when Sutton committed on Christmas Day.
Sutton stands at 6-foot, 210 pounds, and ISU believes the versatile beast can play any of the three linebacker positions. The 3-star recruit, and 87th best linebacker in the 2016 class chose ISU over multiple BCS schools - among them Illinois, Boston College, Maryland, West Virginia, Syracuse and Wisconsin.
DT Jamahl Johnson
The largest commit to this class is defensive tackle Jamahl Johnson from Prior Lake, Minnesota. The 300 pound monster committed to the Rhoads staff in September, and kept his word once Campbell was brought on board. Johnson can be compared to Demond Tucker, in that he has similar size and is quick to the quarterback. That shows with his 4.9 40-yard dash time. He will fit right in as a three-technique tackle.
Johnson did make a visit to Rutgers last weekend, so we will see where this one goes. He's a 3-star recruit, and his only other offer is from South Dakota. He is ranked as the 73rd best defensive tackle in the country.
OLB Carson Lensing
Lensing is the first committed Cyclone in this class, and comes from right here in the state of Iowa. Growing up in Calmar, and playing at South Winneshiek, the lengthy athlete played both defensive end and tight end in high school. He projects to play outside linebacker, and will most likely redshirt his first season.
Lensing is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, is a 2-star recruit, and chose Iowa State over South Dakota State and South Dakota.
JUCO CB Lonnie Johnson
Another over-sized cornerback at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, this recruit could be a diamond in the rough for the Cyclones. Originally committed to Ohio State out of high school, Johnson failed to qualify academically and brought his talents to Garden City Community College in Kansas. While there in 2015, Johnson played in 11 games and picked off five passes.
Ranked as the 91st best JUCO recruit in 2016, Johnson will graduate in the summer and have three years to play two. He is a 3-star recruit and chose ISU over Texas Tech, Toledo, New Mexico and Arkansas State.
The biggest thing I noticed from this class is the versatility of players that could play corner, safety or nickelback. In the dog days of the Big 12, you have to protect against the pass, and the only way you can do that is by putting more defensive backs on the field.
I also recognized a knack for more speed on this side of the ball. Campbell and new defensive coordinator Jon Heacock are known to play a 4-3 defense, with few blitzes and a bend-but-don't-break approach. By bringing in taller corners and more speed, they can utilize that talent to the best of their ability in the Big 12 Conference.
A lot of the uncommitted targets I will touch on in the next recruiting class article are by way of defensive line and outside linebacker. Stay tuned to see the remaining prospects that Coach Campbell and company are pursuing.