The Cyclones kick off their year Aug. 30. 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 free safety, the centerfielder of the defense.
The Leader: Kamari Cotton-Moya
Saturday will be Cotton-Moya's college football deflowering, a year later than expected. A two-way star in high school, Cotton-Moya was an underrated recruiting pickup in 2013 and was earmarked early in camp as one of two true freshmen who'd play, along with Nigel Tribune. An achilles injury ended that plan, but Cotton-Moya rehabbed quickly enough to be on the field for the first spring practice in March. Devron Moore's quick exit only solidified Cotton-Moya's hold on the starting free safety job; JUCO signee Qujuan Floyd's Ames arrival being delayed until mid-July had the same effect. Cotton-Moya is replacing Jacques Washington, who was second on the team in tackles last season. There are big shoes to fill in that regard and Cotton-Moya could stand to add 10 more pounds, but the hope is the redshirt freshman immediately injects a dose of playmaking to a secondary that sorely needed some last season. Cotton-Moya will take his lumps, yes, and it'll be worth it. He's a long, limber athlete who, after enough reps and maybe another offseason, should blossom into a major force.
The Wildcard: Qujuan Floyd
The immediate depth behind both the free and strong safety spots is sketchy in that there's a lack of big-time experience, so I look at Floyd as Iowa State's "swing" safety, who'll back up Cotton-Moya officially at free and then step in at strong if something were to happen to T.J. Mutcherson. Floyd's the old man of the defensive backfield — to give you an idea, he was high school teammates with De'Anthony Thomas, who's now in the NFL — and should bring stability and leadership to the group. He was a good JUCO player, with seven interceptions in 2013, but he's a wildcard to me because I want to see his ceiling: Is he a depth guy for good, or will he budge his way into the conversation as a starter?
The Future: Cotton-Moya
That's the expectation, at least. Cotton-Moya potentially gives Iowa State another four-year starter. Though a lot can happen in the next few years, the long-term projectionist can't help but wonder how stout the Cyclones' secondary might be in 2016, when Tribune and Mutcherson are seniors and Cotton-Moya's still a junior.
We still don't know what happened with Devron Moore, only that he was one of the bigger recruits in 2014, signed in December, enrolled in January, participated in the first few practices, exited by April, contemplated coming back over the summer and never did. His attrition means Iowa State better have hit on Floyd, who's suddenly the difference between Kamari Cotton-Moya and Kamari Syrie. Iowa State signed prep talent Vic Holmes last year, too. Holmes was one of the more under-the-radar recruits in the class, but he was well-coached at La Porte and won't be fazed by the competition. The Cyclones have another Texas safety in the fold for 2015, Denton Guyer's Jordan Wallace.