Defensive End: This unit improved last season as the year went on and returns multiple players with experience. Jacob Lattimer returns on the left side after a solid season that included a conference defensive player of the week honor after two sacks and a forced fumble against Texas. Roosevelt Maggitt and Patrick Neal both saw significant time last season on the other side and appear poised to do so again. Willie Scott also had a solid spring game with eight tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.
Defensive Tackle: Steven Ruempolhamer started last season and returns this season at the nose guard position. Ruempolhamer picked up a sack in the spring game and redshirt freshman Brandon Jensen had two as well. Rhoads is looking for more from this undersized unit and hopes to get it from players like Jake McDonough and Cleyon Laing as well.
Linebacker: This unit, which was fairly inexperienced going into 2010, returns all three starters and two other players that played significant snaps last season. Outside linebacker Jake Knott, who had arm surgery but should be ready to go in the fall, was second in the Big 12 with 130 tackles and his running mate on the other side, AJ Klein, finished fifth in the conference. Both players were always around the ball and forced multiple turnovers. Matt Tau'fo'ou battled injuries in the middle but that allowed true sophomore Jeremiah George to earn vital experience at the position. Matt Morton also started two games and Jevohn Miller, who intercepted a pass in the spring game, may be the sleeper in the linebacking corps.
Cornerback: Leonard Johnson, a player that started nearly every game of his three-year career, will lock down one side of the field for the Cyclones once again. Undersized Jeremy Reeves played multiple games opposite Johnson and will battle Anthony Young for the other starting cornerback spot. Ter'Ran Benton will see some time as a cornerback, especially in nickel and dime situations, while also playing some safety.
Safety: This is similar to the quarterback spot on offensive, both in importance and inexperience for the Cyclones going into 2011. The safeties and linebackers quarterback the defensive and Iowa State will be breaking in new players on the back end. Benton is listed at the strong safety position after playing cornerback early in his career but will probably move around quite a bit. Jacques Washington saw significant time last season and is making a push to start at the free safety spot. Deon Broomfield and Jensen Watson saw time on special teams last season and a newcomer making a push is Earl Brooks, who had a pick in the spring game.