The Cyclones opened preseason practice Aug. 4. To get you ready for the season, AllCyclones.com will be gauging the depth at every position on the roster. In this installment, we're looking at defensive tackle and nose guard.
Projected Starters: DT Devlyn Cousin, So., St. Mary's (GA) ; NG Brandon Jensen, Sr., Ankeny
Projected Backups: Robby Garcia, rFr., Tampa (FL); Vernell Trent, rFr., Jacksonville (FL)
Other Players: Pierre Aka, So., Indianapolis (IN); Ma'Kayle Philips, Fr., Waterloo; Tyler Harmeyer, Sr., Ankeny
The Leader: Brandon Jensen
Since returning to football this summer after originally quitting the team in the spring, Jensen has been "all in," to quote a popular ISU slogan. Oddly, Jensen's playing-time outlook has improved drastically — he finished the season having started 12 games at nose but was probably going to back up Devlyn Cousin there in 2014, had he stayed on. But when David Irving and Rodney Coe were dismissed from the program, Cousin slid to three-tech to compensate for the loss at tackle, assuring Jensen his spot at nose guard. Jensen's not a superior player, but the Cyclones would be in trouble without him in 2014, and he's been a nice presence in the position rooms.
The Wildcard: Pierre Aka
A concussion didn't help, but Aka had a poor spring heading into his third year in Ames. To his credit, he's reportedly rebounded since with a nice summer and good start to fall practice. A few years ago, the plan would've been for Aka to be a starter by now, but it hasn't clicked for him. Maybe he'll never be the player he could've been coming out of Pike in Indianapolis — where he was a three-star recruit — but he needs to be able to help.
The Future: Robby Garcia
Garcia just gets it. Football comes naturally to him, as does pad level, an ever-important fundamental for a defensive tackle. He's currently listed atop the depth chart at tackle, though we've already spelled out the most likely starting lineup. Nevertheless, the Cyclones are very pleased with his rapid development.
You know well the sagas of Coe and Irving. The Cyclones were dealt another blow to their interior line when JUCO transfer Terry Ayeni tore his ACL working out over the summer — Ayeni definitely would've contributed at tackle this fall, and maybe even started. He's out for the year. Iowa State didn't sign any prep d-tackles in 2014. The Cyclones are the leader for big-time JUCO tackle Demond Tucker out of Copiah-Lincoln and think they'll be able to sign him this December.