Each day leading up to Iowa State’s season opener against South Dakota State, Cyclone Fanatic will check another day off the calendar with a memorable statistic, player or game as part of our Countdown to Kickoff presented by Tailgate Clothing.
Iowa State is expected to field one of its best defensive lines, and overall defenses, in program history in 2018. That fact means one long-standing program record could potentially be threatened — the 32 sacks during the 1998 season.
The 1998 team was led by five sacks from Chin Achebe and four by James Reed. The group featured three of the top-10 pass rushers in program history with Reggie Hayward (16.5 career sacks), Reed (14 career sacks) and Achebe (11 career sacks).
Iowa State’s 2017 defense ranks as the sixth-best sacking group in program history with 26 sacks. The Cyclones return 15.5 of those sacks this season, led by junior JaQuan Bailey, who will enter the program’s top-10 with his first sack in 2018, and 11.5th of his career.
Other notable returning pass rushers include Willie Harvey (four sacks in 2018), Enyi Uwazurike (0.5 sacks in 2018), Carson Lensing (1.5 sacks in 2018) and Marcel Spears (one sack in 2018). That list also doesn’t include projected excelling pass rushers Matt Leo and Kamilo Tongamoa. Plus, it would not be a bit surprising to see Ray Lima’s pass rushing abilities improve in his second season with the program.
Regardless, Iowa State’s defense is expected to put quarterbacks and offense lines on notice in 2018. Only time will tell if they can surpass the pass rushing group from 20 years ago.