Greg Eisworth might be the perfect example of "overlooking" Iowa State. A native of Texas, the Cyclones safety began his career at Ole Miss. After one season, he knew it wasn't the place for him, electing to go to junior college before heading to Ames.
“Iowa State football would not be where it is without Greg’s leadership,” Campbell said.
Campbell and the Cyclones talk about having a five-star culture. As much as the offense is thriving, defense wins you games, and will be a focal point again.
Coming off a 9-3 record, Iowa State was the regular-season champion of the Big 12. Campbell took a team known for being at the bottom of the totem pole all the way to Arlington for a shot against Oklahoma.
The Sooners won the war, but the Cyclones got revenge against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
Texas is trying to prove they are still a contender in the Big 12. If anything, this game will likely decide who will have the chance to take on Oklahoma at the season's end and prove which team is trending towards the top 10 in rankings.
Iowa State has a sound defense, and will be returning nine starters from a season ago. They also have a double-digit sacks artist in the making, a ball-hawking defensive back and perhaps the top defensive player in the conference.
Should Texas be worried?
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DE Will McDonald IV
Anytime you can return your leader in sacks, you're off to a great start. McDonald recorded 10.5 QB takedowns, along with 25 total QB hits for the Cyclones front seven. He finished the year with a total of 33 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles.
The Cyclones are going to need to add pressure consistently. The conference has gotten more mobile with quarterbacks, and a full year underneath everyone's belt could be the difference in a win or a loss for Iowa State.
McDonald can win on the inside or terrorize offensive tackles off the edge. He'll be a name to watch for once more.
LB Mike Rose
What did Rose do last year? No, honestly, when looking back, what is there even a battle for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year? The short and long answer; No.
Rose tallied a team-high 96 tackles. He also recorded three pass breakups and finished second in the conference with five interceptions. If that wasn't enough, Rose recorded 12 tackles from behind the line of scrimmage.
The 6-4 Rose is going to draw NFL comparisons entering 2021. He can play the edge, but also is a thumper NFL squads love to see up the middle. There's no denying that he'll have a chance to become an early name on the rise in the NFL Draft community.
LB Jake Hummel
Hummel is at his best when playing in space. More of the traditional downhill linebacker, the senior works well shedding blocks and working to against the run.
Last season, Hummel finished second on the team in tackles (77), but he led the way in tackles for losses. He's a nice compliment to Rose and can mirror off his play every snap.
DB Isheem Young
Maybe fans expected rose to have a stand-out year. They likely did not see what was to be of Young, who took home Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors last December.
A hybrid defensive back in the nickel, Young worked well in both run snaps and coverage. He recorded 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups and the interception that sealed Iowa State’s upset win over Oklahoma.
Overall, Young is a perfect nickel defender than can play both high and in the box depending on the formation. He'll be a name looking to build off an impressive first season at the collegiate level.
S Greg Eisworth
Young will be waiting in the wings for Eisworth to leave. For now, having both on the field is a blessing in disguise.
Last season, Eisworth notched 47 tackles, two tackles for losses, and an interception. The year before, he recorded 87 total tackles two forced fumbles, and an interception. Eisworth also played hurt with a shoulder injury for part of the season.
Maybe a full season under his belt could help him improve in coverage. Either way, he's a leader for the club in 2021.
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