Football

Musings: Here’s Iowa State’s highest-graded players by PFF through four games

Sep 25, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) shows his excitement after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the game against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

With Iowa State football one-third of the way through its regular-season slate, I figured this would be a good time to take a peek at how the Cyclones have stacked up in Pro Football Focus grading.

Here’s a breakdown of the top-10 offensive and defensive total grades through those four games among players with more than 100 snaps.

Offense

1 – Breece Hall, 82.8

Despite a slow start, the junior from Wichita has solidified himself as the most highly-graded offensive player on Iowa State’s roster. That can be attributed in large part to his 190 yards and two touchdown performance on Saturday against Baylor, which earned him a season-high 79.0 rushing grade.

Hall finished last season with an 85.7 rushing grade, which means there’s still room to level up this season as he sits at an 82.9 run grade through four games. Regardless, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year sits third in the conference, and 18th nationally, at 107 rushing yards per game with 428 total yards on the ground and a Big 12-leading six rushing touchdowns.

2 – Xavier Hutchinson, 76.5

The Big 12’s leader in receptions has increased his pass grade from 73.7 in 2020 to 77.9 in 2021. That second number is certainly boosted by Hutchinson’s 10-catch, 133-yard and two-touchdown game against UNLV, which earned him a season-high 90.3 pass grade.

Hutchinson’s 24 catches for 285 yards and two touchdowns on the season mean he ranks as one of the league’s most consistently productive pass catchers, ranking first in receptions, fourth in total yards and tied for fourth in touchdown snags.

3 – Brock Purdy, 74.5

Purdy’s total offensive grade at this point is the lowest of his collegiate career, but he has seen his passing grade jump back up to 81.6 this season after bottoming out at 74.2 in 2020. Still, his 2021 numbers are well below the 88 passing grade and 80.3 total offensive grade he posted as a freshman in 2018.

The senior’s 22-of-33 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Baylor earned him a 64.3 passing grade, which was still almost two points better than his season-low 62.3 passing grade against Iowa.

4 – Charlie Kolar, 70.3

Kolar’s total offensive grade has seen a sharp decline from his 2019 and 2020 numbers (85.5 and 84.9), which can probably be attributed in large part to an offseason injury that forced him to miss the season opener and spend the first two weeks of the season just working back to full health.

The senior tight end has still rebounded to catch 13 passes for 174 yards and touchdown in three games.

5 – Trevor Downing, 66.5

After missing all but 34 snaps in 2020, Downing has rebounded to post a better total offensive grade and run-blocking grade than during his breakout 2019 season. Downing’s 70.7 run-blocking grade is the best of all Iowa State’s primary offensive linemen while his 60.3 passing blocking grade is third behind Colin Newell and Darrell Simmons.

6 – Sean Foster, 64.3
7 – Derek Schweiger, 60.3
8 – Chase Allen, 59.0
9 – Darrell Simmons, 58.6
10 – Colin Newell, 56.0

Defense

1 – Isheem Young, 83.5

The co-Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2020 has picked up right where he left off by elevating his total defensive grade almost 10 full points. His coverage grade has seen a solid increase as well jumping from 71.3 in 2020 to 80.4 in 2021.

Young is currently fourth on the team with 17 tackles and has a team-leading two interceptions through four games. He posted a 90.3 run defense grade in the loss to Baylor.

2 – Enyi Uwazurike, 82.5

What a year it has been for the big fella who slides between defensive end and nose tackle as he posted career-high grades in three of the four primary grades for defensive linemen. His total defensive grade is the highest of his career as are his 80.1 run defense and 75.7 pass rush grades.

Uwazurike is also well on his way to a career year in traditional statistics, having already matched his career-high with three sacks and posting 4.5 tackles for loss, which is on-pace to be another career-best.

3 – Zach Petersen, 74.7

Another guy with across the board increases in his grades, Petersen has played the best football of his career so far during 2021, posting grades of 73.8 against the run, 81.4 in tackling and 65.0 in pass rush. All of those numbers are career highs and his tackling grade is more than two times better than the number he posted during the 2020 campaign.

Petersen is likely to come close to matching his statistics during the 2019 season when he played the primary role in place of the injured JaQuan Bailey.

4 – Greg Eisworth, 73.4

Eisworth’s 70.6 coverage grade in 2021 is still well below his career-high 87.2 posted in 2019, but the senior safety has largely been what you’d expect him to be this season. He’s added a 76.8 run defense grade, which is only slightly below his career-high of 77.7 posted in 2018.

Eisworth currently ranks third on the team with 20 tackles through four games.

5 – Mike Rose, 72.2

Despite what looks like a poor total grade, Rose remains one of the nation’s elite linebackers, especially against the run. The senior has posted an 89.5 run defense grade through four games to rank third nationally among FBS linebackers.

His pass coverage has taken a dip though as he’s posted a 56.3 coverage grade and has allowed eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets thus far.

6 – Kym-Mani King, 70.7
7 – Anthony Johnson, 70.5
8 – Gerry Vaughn, 69.7
9 – T.J. Tampa, 66.6
10 – Jake Hummel, 66.2

Jared Stansbury

administrator

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.

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