Nov 27, 2020; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns wide receiver Joshua Moore (6) attempts to make a catch as Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Tayvonn Kyle (13) breaks up the pass for pass interference in the second quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Matt Campbell loves his cornerbacks.
More specifically, he loves the quartet of Tayvonn Kyle, T.J. Tampa, Myles Purchase and Darien Porter currently battling for playing time on the perimeter of the Cyclone defense.
Everyone loves what they’ve seen from that group throughout the winter, spring and summer, and speaks glowingly about the unique and high-level skillsets each one of them possesses.
“It’s the healthiest that I would say that we’ve been at the corner position,” Campbell said on Tuesday during Iowa State’s 2022 Football Media Day festivities. “We know in today’s world of football, the more you can cover and have the ability to do different things with your coverages, and a lot of that lends to who is covering, then I think the more unique and different and multiple you can be in terms of your secondary and what you do on the defensive side of the football.”
“For us, there’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of football there in that group. Those guys are all what I would say hitting probably at the right time in their career of, man, their growth, and who they are and what they’ve become.”
That first point, the one about this being the healthiest the program’s been at the position, is the most important one to note from that quote.
Iowa State has not necessarily been elite at the cornerback position top-to-bottom every year during Campbell’s tenure, but the program certainly has had some elite cover corners.
Brian Peavy was a multiple-time all-conference player not so long ago during this growth of Iowa State football, and there’s a guy named Anthony Johnson Jr. who has been one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 during his career in Ames, and will be switching to safety this season.
But, top-to-bottom, it is hard to argue against the point that this is the strongest group of cornerbacks Iowa State has had in recent seasons.
Just ask the man who just vacated their position.
“Man, the competition is high, bro,” Johnson Jr. said. “I’m so impressed with how they’ve developed and what they’re doing and what they’re going to become. It’s crazy. I think y’all will be excited by what you’re going to get out of that corner room this season.”
Nobody in that group brings more experience to the table than Kyle, the 5-foot-11, 189-pound senior from Valdosta, Ga., who has appeared in 20 games during his Iowa State career, posting 60 tackles, seven passes defended, six tackles for loss and one interception.
Kyle appeared in 11 games for Iowa State during the program’s magical run to the Fiesta Bowl in 2020, playing across from Johnson for one of the Big 12’s stingiest defenses.
He played in only three games a season ago, but has emerged as a team leader putting together one of the best stretches of his career in Ames.
“Tayvonn is senior in our program now and has played a lot of football. Kind of himself has ridden the wave of inconsistencies. You’re talking literally the best 11 months of his career that I’ve seen from Tayvonn. Tayvonn, He’s got elite skill. He’s got elite talent. A guy that has really risen as not only a great senior leader right now in our program, but a guy that, man, has just really done all the little things right.”
The second-most experienced of that group is Tampa, who has appeared in 13 games during his Iowa State career, including nine last season, and tallied 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and three passes defended.
At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds with elite speed, Tampa possesses an intriguing skillset that has made him highly thought of since he signed with the program three years ago.
“T.J. Tampa, man, he’s had great moments for us,” Campbell said. “I think finding consistency for T.J., we see great talent and he showcases great talent, but for him as a young player that has been trying to find that consistency that great players have the ability to have. But, again, I think he’s growing up and you saw some of that consistency come obviously this spring,”
Purchase brings a body-type similar to Kyle’s standing 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, and he’s already had early success similar to Kyle’s back in 2020.
During the last six games of his true freshman season last year, the Denver native 13 tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass defended, while earning significant praise from folks around the program.
“Myles was a guy that kind of forged his way to the front,” Campbell said. “Competitive excellence, man, has been consistent from day one and has really earned the right to get on the field and be a guy there.”
The last one in that group, and perhaps the one that sparks the imagination the most at this point, is Porter, the wide receiver turned cornerback, and one of the greatest track athletes in Iowa high school history.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound redshirt junior used his elite speed to became a standout on Iowa State’s special teams units during his first two seasons on the field.
But, he couldn’t find his way onto the field at a crowded receiver. Enter a switch to the other side of the ball, where his skillset makes him highly unique and highly tantalizing.
“Darien brings length and speed and everyone knows you want a corner who is tall and can run,” Johnson said. “He’s still the entities of playing corner, but he brings the raw talent and he can go out there and compete with anybody.”
What will the rotation of the group be? That remains to be solved with Iowa State set to start fall camp on Wednesday.
The jury will remain out on Iowa State’s corners until they see the field for public viewing on Sept. 3 when Southeast Missouri State visits Ames for the season.
Still, there’s reason to be excited, because everyone at Iowa State loves this group of cornerbacks.
“So proud of those four guys. We think they’re all in a really healthy spot going into the fall camp. It will be a great battle,” Campbell said. “The more of those guys that we feel coming out of fall camp that can play for us and that are ready to play for us, to me, the better team that we’ve got the ability to be.”