The debate's getting serious.
AllCyclones.com began listing ISU's best 50 players for 2014 earlier, Nos. 50-26 — 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. 18: Jordan Harris, Middle Linebacker, JR
Jeremiah George put on a good show last week at Iowa State's Pro Day, then chatted casually with reporters about House of Cards.
George shook everybody's hand afterward and walked over to an NFL team scout, where they discussed who knows what.
The easygoing banter, the goodbyes, the NFL attention — Iowa State's best defensive player from 2013 is moving on to bigger and better the things, and the Cyclones will miss George's production, instincts and hustle tremendously.
Its defense thin at the back end, with question marks everywhere else, the Cyclones wish they had redshirted George at the beginning of his career, as his presence in the middle could help shore up deficiencies elsewhere.
In going the JUCO transfer route and signing immediately-eligible Jordan Harris, the nation's leading JUCO tackler last year at Copiah-Lincoln, ISU smartly went with the quick fix to replace George. Recent mike linebacker recruiting has not panned out very well, and while the staff has praised Kane Seeley this spring, it'd be a big gamble to stick him in charge of a Big 12 defense.
Harris is smaller than George — I don't quite buy his listed measurement of 5-foot-11 — but there's proof an undersized middle 'backer can thrive in Wally Burnham's 4-3, provided there's room to run uninhibited.
JUCO production doesn't necessarily transfer to AQ-level ball, but Harris' total number of 124 total stops last season is undeniably impressive, and his highlight tape meshes with his stats: He's got a nose for the football, can move in pursuit sideline-to-sideline and can deliver the goods when he gets to the ballcarrier.
Joked Paul Rhoads at his signing day presser: "He can knock people's fillings loose."
Harris is a first-come, last-to-leave guy, and eats up film.
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.