AMES — Like it or not, the success of Iowa State’s defense in 2014 could hinge on how two junior college transfers, Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor, adapt to the Division I game.
It is no secret at all that the Cyclones need depth on its defensive front-seven. It is early. Very early. But so far, so good. After a brief delay during the early summer months, the defensive line duo made finally made it to campus just in time for day one of fall camp. That’s a start.
Here’s the thing though: Both players, specifically Taylor, actually impressed veteran defensive coordinator Wally Burnham on day one.
“Trent’s got great get-off,” Burnham said. “I think he’s going to hopefully help us maybe in the pass rush game. And Dale’s not bad either. So we’ve got some plans for those guys to get a lot of speed out on the field at different positions. They might give us a dimension we haven’t had as far as getting off against the quarterback.”
Relying on JUCO’s that close to the ball is always a dangerous proposition. Summer JUCO’s tend to be even larger wildcards. The potential is there for these two to be contributors in 2014.
“They caught my eye a couple times which is kind of surprising,” Burnham said. “It seemed like they were catching on pretty good. So the first time a guy goes out and practices and he catches your eye a little bit, that’s encouraging.”
Most of all, Taylor and Pierson give Burnham some much-needed options.
“If we can get someone in third and long, second and long — you know, get our speed guys out there. They could end up at any of those four positions,” Burnham said. “Dale’s not bad either. In junior college he was a straight-line rusher and didn’t have many moves, so we’ve got to try to teach him some things like that. But I think both of them can help us”
Knott returns; Brackens impresses
Sophomore linebacker Luke Knott saw his first on-the-field action since missing a good chunk of his redshirt freshman season with a hip/groin injury.
“Luke Knott caught my eye,” Burnham said. “He came back and did a little bit better than I thought he’d do.”
Elsewhere at linebacker…
“Jared Brackens made some very good plays out there. He caught my eye," Burnham said. "Those two probably stood out more than anybody else.”
Neither Knott or Brackens are listed as No. 1 on linebackers on the pre-camp depth chart. Knott is listed as a co-starter with senior Jevohn Miller at WLB. Walk-on Drake Ferch is actually listed ahead of Brackens at SAM.
However, it should be no secret to anyone that both are legitimate contenders to receive starting nods on Aug. 30 and might even be the favorites.
While it is unclear as to how disciplined Iowa State’s young secondary will be this season, it should at the very least be a fun group to watch.
“I know it was just 7-on-7 and sorts and its kind of like backyard ball but they were breaking on the ball," Burnham said. “It looked like they had good position — keeping their leverage, all those coaching things you try to teach them. And I think we’ve got some speed back there.”
T.J. Mutcherson, a sophomore strong safety, was the standout.
“He’s a physical kid,” Burnham said. “He’s got good speed. He’s got good range. Get him going at safety, and Kamari Cotton-Moya, he had a couple plays out there that caught my eye. And the corners I thought played pretty good today. So I’m encouraged today. First day, but at least you’ve got some signs of some athletes out there that can run around a little bit.”