Campbell confident in secondary despite transfer portal defections

Iowa State Cyclones special team Beau Freyler (17) takes down Oklahoma State punt returner Brennan Presley during the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Matt Campbell is not concerned about his program’s safety room.

No position on Iowa State’s roster was hit harder by the transfer portal than that safeties group, having lost four players at the position to the portal since the end of last season, including 2020 Co-Big 12 Freshman of the Year Isheem Young and rising star Craig McDonald, both of which have since committed to SEC programs.

Despite all that, Campbell is confident in the group the Cyclones return at that position, led by converted veteran cornerback Anthony Johnson and sophomore Beau Freyler.

“I don’t think we’re too concerned about the depth at that position,” Campbell said during a stop on the annual Cyclone Tailgate Tour last week. “We feel really confident about that group. I think I’d say if there’s a group that grew the most this spring for us, it was certainly that position group.”

McDonald’s departure was the only one that could be considered a shock when you factor in the Minnesota native completed spring practice with the program and was expected to be a starter for the team prior to his entry into the portal late last month.

McDonald, who committed to Auburn earlier this month, started three games for the Cyclones in 2021, totaling 41 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and tying for a team-high two interceptions.

“Craig’s a great kid,” Campbell said. “Did a lot of really good things for us. Grew a lot. I think for him, and his family, they felt like there were some other options out there that they wanted to explore. When that happens, we wish every young man the best of luck and just continue to coach the guys that want to be in our football program.”

Iowa State has since been able to cushion the blow of transfer portal losses by adding JUCO transfers Blake Thompson and Treyveon McGee to the roster immediately next season.

Both of those players will be expected to come in and compete for snaps immediately alongside Freyler, Johnson and redshirt freshman Malik Verdon.

Those players, plus cornerbacks T.J. Tampa, Myles Purchase, Tayvonn Kyle and Darien Porter, combine for a defensive secondary that has Campbell still feeling confident heading into the summer.

“I think we’re really confident about where we are there, and really where we are as a secondary,” Campbell said. “I feel like it’s the deepest we’ve been since we’ve been here.”

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.