AMES — Three snaps.
That’s how much ISU defensive end Dale Pierson saw the field in last season’s disquieting opening loss to North Dakota State.
The lack of playing time bothered the high-motor junior college transfer, but one snap added sting to the experience — as well as fuel to his now-growing fire.
“Three snaps, the last a knee,” said Pierson, a 6-2, 246-pounder who gained strength and experience as the 2014 season wore on. “I remember that. That’s what I remember. Don’t ever want to go back to that.”
Pierson is now a senior. Big things are expected out of him, as well as fellow JUCO Trent Taylor, who endured similar growing pains a year ago.
Both of Pierson’s sacks came in the last three games of 2014. Taylor — who stands 6-2 and weighs 257 pounds — compiled his two sacks in his first four games.
So the key for prolonged success for the duo is consistency, particularly on the practice field.
“I can’t slack off like I used to,” Taylor said after being asked what we learned last season. “Other places I could slack off or take a play off and coaches wouldn’t say anything, but it’s different here with (defensive ends) coach (Stan) Eggen. He’s not going to let anything slide. He’s going to tell you like it is every time.”
Eggen sealed the deal with imposing new arrival Jhaustin Thomas precisely because he demands the best each day, each practice, each snap.
Often those demands are framed within sharp words, all of which are greatly appreciated.
“I love it, I love it,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t want to be coached by a coach that’s just going to beat around the bush and give me attaboys — like, ‘You did good,’ but really I didn’t do good. So I love it. I love being coached by him.”
Eggen likes what he’s seen in the spring and the fall from Pierson and Taylor.
Their maturity has led to a new demand: That they help coach others on the defensive front, and vice versa. Both are taking to their respective leadership roles — and Pierson furnished an example.
“Josh Coleman, we call him ‘Catfish,’ and it seemed like he was a little upset about being on the scout team as a freshman,” Pierson said. “But it’s expected as a freshman. You come in and, especially with the depth we have now, I told him I was on scout two practices. The first game I only got three snaps and one of them they kneed it. So no matter what, you’re never there forever. If you work hard you’re not. So just keep pushing and everything will be all right.”
Pierson’s chief attribute is speed. He can rush the passer and outpace blockers.
Taylor’s strength is simply strength. He can burrow into the backfield, too, but also can play inside at times if needed.
“I think he’s going to be more durable, more explosive — all the things that you want,” Eggen said of Taylor. “Now he’s learning how to strain his body and i think that will show up and I believe he’ll have a really good year, a full year.”
That, along with avoiding kneel-down situations, is what excites him and Pierson, along with the other defensive trench-minders.
“It’s a unit,” Eggen said. “I see them (coaching each other) and that is a compliment towards their ability and their experience to understand what they’re supposed to do, but also try to get this team to become better and play at a higher level.”
— Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said Saturday’s scrimmage entailed 165 snaps."That’s a lot of football," Rhoads said. "And it was the hottest day of camp, so we were the most fatigued we’d probably have been."
Who stood out?
"I thought the offense looked a little fresher," Rhoads said. "In camp, the legs come and they go a couple times. And they usually, even though both teams are on the practice field the same length, one side of the ball goes at a different time than the other side of the ball and I thought this particular round favored the offense as far as when the legs were at a little bit.”
— Backup safety Darian Cotton has not practiced since sustaining a concussion Thursday, but he’s expected back relatively soon. "Other than that, we came through (last week) clean," Rhoads said.