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. 14: Cory Morrissey, Defensive End, SR
You'll read a lot about Cory Morrissey this spring, summer and fall, for a few reasons. He has a great story, he's a stand-up guy, he's a solid football player, All-Big 12 honorable mention last fall.
Is he the Cyclones' most talented defensive player? No. Is he even their best defensive end? If JUCO transfer Dale Pierson meets expectations, then no.
Morrissey is a high-motor grinder, a right-place, right-time player who's nice to plug along a line but won't have left tackles quaking in their cleats.
Playing opposite Willie Scott in 2013, Morrissey led all linemen with 52 tackles and notched two sacks. The Cyclones need more than that from Morrissey this upcoming season, or at least more than the two sacks.
When asked about Morrissey on Saturday, defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said he wanted to see the senior make more impact plays.
Those plays, of the impact variety, were the ones Morrissey struggled with in 2013. He rarely found himself out of position and did an especially good job down the line on options. But hardly ever did he swing a game the Cyclones' way — bursting off the line, bull-rushing past a blocker, decimating a sitting-duck QB.
In Burnham's conservative 4-3 defense, it's important the defensive ends generate their own pass-rush. Beating blockers one-on-one is a requirement for the job, not a preference. Iowa State didn't get any of that last season.
The expectations are on the table. Pierson's presence pass-rushing presence ought to be a magnet for o-line attention — at least moreso than Willie Scott — and David Irving and Devlyn Cousin's inside push should give Morrissey some room. He probably won't rack up double-digit sacks. He doesn't have to. But five would be a nice benchmark.
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.