Nov 24, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team against the Kansas State Wildcats at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
The preseason accolades continue to mount for Iowa State football.
The Cyclones have 15 members of their squad on Phil Steele’s annual preseason All-Big 12 team in his college football magazine. That 15 includes seven of the 11 starters on Iowa State’s defense, considered to be one of the best in the country entering the 2019 campaign.
The group is led by three Cyclone defenders on the first-team in defensive end JaQuan Bailey, defensive tackle Ray Lima and outside linebacker Marcel Spears. All three players are at this point considered consensus preseason first-team All-Big 12 selections.
Junior running back Kene Nwangwu was also selected as the first-team kick returner.
Sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar is the lone Cyclone offensive player on the second-team. He is joined on the second-team by linebacker Mike Rose and safety Greg Eisworth.
A pair of Iowa State offensive linemen were named third-team with Josh Knipfel and Julian Good-Jones both receiving the honor. They are joined by senior wide receiver Deshaunte Jones, junior defensive end Enyi Uwazurike, junior punter Corey Dunn and sophomore punt returner Tarique Milton.
Rounding out the Cyclones on the teams are fourth-team selections sophomore center Collin Newell and redshirt freshman linebacker Will McDonald.
While all of these selections are notable, one thing that might be even more so is the fact Steele’s projections place Iowa State as his No. 4 surprise team of 2019.
“This year, my #4 Surprise Team is the Iowa State Cyclones who a couple of years ago, to be frank, I would have never expected on the list,” Steele writes. “That was before Matt Campbell came to town. Many around the country will joke that the Big 12 does not play defense but this Big 12 team does and last year they held opponents to 78 yards per game below their season average. The bulk of that defense is back and they return a now veteran QB in Brock Purdy who was thrown into the fire last year and thrived. He also plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12. They do have to play Oklahoma on the road but have faced the Sooners with a third-string QB each of the last two years and won in Norman in 2017. Two of my sets of Power Ratings call for them to go 11-1 which would put them into the Big 12 Title game while giving them a shot at making the playoff.”
If that does not throw fuel on the hype train fire, I’m not sure what will.