The debate's about to get serious.
AllCyclones.com listed Iowa State's best 50 players for 2014 earlier, Nos. 50-25 — using production, potential, positional value and a little bit of by-the-gut reasoning.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty, beginning our one-by-one countdown of No. 25 to No. 1, a task that'll run through Spring Football.
The envelope, please ...
No. 25: Terry Ayeni, Defensive Lineman, JR
As January wore on, Terry Ayeni grew into one of Iowa State's most necessary recruiting gets, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman with the size to hold up inside and the speed and fundamentals to get after the passer.
"I think his skills cater to him more if they have him at end, but regardless he is going to be an awesome player," said Edmond Boateng, Ayeni's teammate at New Mexico Military Institute, who signed with Arizona State.
The Cyclones recruited Boateng for a while. By the time he turned his focus to Arizona State and Texas, Iowa State had realized the guy opposite him was pretty good, too.
Ayeni notched seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss in his 2013 JUCO season.
Now, if Ayeni can realize his potential — and if the Cyclones coaches can find the best spot for him — he'd help a defensive line sorely in need of help against the run and the pass, which finished last in the Big 12 in sacks last season.
It's Ayeni's versatility that has him ranked ahead of Devlyn Cousin in our list of ISU's Best Players for 2014, as well as the chance he contributes at end — a major position of value, in our book.
It is with caution that I dip my toe into what will likely be choppy waters. Ranking Iowa State's 50 best players is an arduous task. With a number that allows for the two-deep (22 on each side) plus a few, any omission might be construed as an insult. That's not at all what I set out to do here. I wanted to locate and then rank the most valuable Cyclones for the 2014 football season. Read that again. For the 2014 football season. Not from last season. Or for 2017. How'd I do this? I looked at production, sure, and of course I looked at short-term potential — can this player contribute in 2014, and at what level?
Phone calls were made, brains were picked, contributions considered. I tried to think like an NFL executive: Quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback are by many accounts the most important positions in football, but I didn't always obey that rule, not unless the talent stacked up. I went back to my notes for the first and second watches of all the 2013 games, but those were last season's schemes, at least on offense, and I project the change to Mark Mangino's scheme will shake things up.