Expect this wrinkle on Iowa State’s defense in 2024

LAS VEGAS — Expect to see at least some small changes from Iowa State’s traditionally stout defense in 2024. That’s the hint that Matt Campbell gave at the Big 12’s media day on Tuesday in Las Vegas. 

“I think you will probably see us play a little bit more four-down this year just because we have so much depth,” Campbell told a pool of local reporters. “When you look at this team, it was almost stunning to go back and watch last fall and then see us this spring. Just because we were so young at linebacker and on the defensive line.” 

Iowa State’s defense only sacked the opposing quarterback 21 times in 2023 – good for 109th nationally. While Jon Heacock’s three-man front scheme was never built to put up gaudy sack numbers, it’s a notable drop-off from 32 in 2021. 

“It needs to evolve and get better,” Campbell said of the front-seven. “The ability for this group to take that step forward. I think you are going to see a completely different looking defensive group for Iowa State. I think that linebacker room is as good as I’ve seen it. I think that group will help the line be better.”

It’s important to note that the severity of this change will likely be decided by matchups and how fall camp goes. But it has a guy like fifth-year middle man J.R. Singleton very excited. 

“I can be a little bit more dynamic,” Singleton said. “Me and Dom (Dominique Orange) can be in the game at the same time and I think that will give a lot of trouble to teams in the Big 12. We have a couple wrinkles that you’ll see as the season goes on. I’m excited about that.”

As for getting those hurry/sack numbers up … Singleton gave some insightful analysis on where Iowa State can grow. 

“We have to learn to rush as a unit,” Singleton said. “I feel like everybody sees Will McDonald and JaQuan Bailey and they think that he just went out there and got him. No. They did their job. They stayed in their rush lane. When you rush as a unit, the sacks will come. The pressure will come. When we rush as individuals, it gets tough to get the quarterback down.”