DALLAS — When Iowa State’s pre fall camp depth chart was released to the media on Monday, seeing Pierre Aka listed ahead of Devlyn Cousin at defensive tackle came as a surprise to most. After all, the 6-foot-4, 313-pound junior’s career in Ames thus far has been littered with injuries and disappointment.
It was after the 2014 season when Rhoads called Aka into his office to have a frank chit-chat.
“I had the conversation with him that he was moving to offensive line,” Rhoads said on Tuesday at the Big 12’s media day. “Some things happened and we said that we would give him another spring to see what he would do.”
Perhaps it was that conversation that lit Aka’s fire.
“He didn’t say much,” Rhoads said. “He sort of had a glare. Those guys look at that move as a demotion. Some end up making millions because of that demotion but none of them want to accept it when it first is presented to them.”
Rhoads says it was this spring when Aka’s “light” finally came on.
“Whether if it was that fire that was lit or him just finally coming into his own, he was a different player for us this spring on the defensive front and we are very excited about that,” Rhoads said.
It’s also notable that Aka has slimmed down significantly since last season. When Iowa State’s most recent roster was released, Aka was 20 pounds lighter than what he was listed at to begin the spring.
While Rhoads did note that those roster weights are “fluid,” the change of Aka’s body was the result of an initiative straight from his desk.
“We have leaned up certain guys,” Rhoads said. “I don’t know if they are as extreme as some of those are but we have with Devlyn Cousin and Vernell Trent and Pierre Aka, we have leaned up some of those guys on the defensive front. It was definitely a priority from me to the coaching staff and carried through.”