STANZ: Who could breakout for the ISU defense in 2020? Here’s one possibility…

Nov 23, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team play the Kansas Jayhawks at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re looking for a potential breakout star for the Iowa State defense in 2020, then I have a name to put at the top of your list — Isheem Young.

Why Young? Well, first of all, the buzz surrounding his play since arriving on campus has been palpable and consistent. When asking about the progress of younger players in the program, he is often one of the first names to come up.

Secondly, Young was considered one of the top high school safeties in the country in the 2018 recruiting class before legal trouble derailed his commitment to Penn State and forced him to reclassify to the 2019 class, leading to his eventual enrollment in Ames.

You can take my word for it on this — or you can listen to his teammate Lawrence White when he was asked about young guys who have stuck out during fall camp.

“I think Isheem Young’s having a great camp so far,” White said. “He’s really out there making plays. He’s learning the plays and he’s learning really fast. He’s developing into a great player. He’s a great teammate. He’s out there making plays.

“He plays really fast. He’s physical. He loves contact. At the position that he’s at, I think that’s really critical. He’s going with the flow and he’s really excelling on the practice field. We’ll see when game time comes.”

How much Young sees the field will probably be largely predicated on which of the safety positions he plays. Obviously, White and two-time first-team All-Big 12 honoree Greg Eisworth are returning at the free and star safety positions, respectively, but there is a hole on the depth chart at strong safety left by the graduations of Braxton Lewis and Justin Bickham.

If Young proves he can play with the consistency Matt Campbell and his staff demand from players to see the field, then it would not shock me at all to see the 5-foot-10, 200-pound former Imhotep Charter standout in the starting lineup on Sept. 12 against Louisiana.

After that, don’t be surprised if he becomes a standout for the Cyclones, too.

“When I think of Isheem, I think physical. Isheem is any extremely physical football player,” Campbell said. “You look back to his high school video, he was an outstanding tailback. He’s a great cover guy. He’s a guy that’s got the ability to tackle from sideline to sideline. I think a lot of what you saw in Greg if you look back at Greg’s high school film, Greg had some very similar traits. He’s got the ball in his hands on offense. He’s got the ability to run sideline to sideline and cover people on defense. Isheem’s got a lot of those traits. I think what I’ve really enjoyed is his competitiveness. What I’ve really enjoyed is his physicality. I think as with any young player, it’s consistency. Adding these elite traits and that’s the most important trait, consistently being the best version of yourself every day. That’s his great challenge continuing to move forward, but it’s been really fun to watch his growth. We’re really proud of Isheem and where he’s at.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.