Help on the Way in Secondary?

In need of some immediate help in the defensive secondary, Iowa State appears to be in the driver's seat for the services of a 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety from the California junior-college ranks that figures to impact the depth chart right away.

During a weekend loaded with numbers of visiting JUCO talent, Cyclone coaches hosted standout Jerry Gair, a playmaking safety from West Hills of Coalinga. In fact, the visit was so positive that the all-conference and all-region pick as a sophomore could be on the verge of committing to ISU.

"Jerry really enjoyed his visit," said West Hills Head Coach Mark Gritton. "I spoke with him about it and he said it was great. He liked the facilities and also enjoyed being around those coaches. He's looking forward to the Big 12. I think this is going to be his choice."

The Cyclones will likely close the deal during a trip this weekend to New Orleans, Gair's hometown, where Dan McCarney will make an in-home visit. Gair attended St. Charles High School before enrolling in classes at West Hills.

"Iowa State is going to visit he and his parents down in New Orleans this Saturday," Gritton said. "He's up here finishing up his finals right now."

Gair would be selecting the Cyclones over several programs, including a San Jose State team he visited in early December. One of the biggest reasons, according to Gritton, is the hard work of recruiter Mike Nelson, who is responsible for scouting JUCO talent in the Northern and Central regions of California.

"Coach Nelson does a great job out here," Gritton said. "In my opinion he's one of the best recruiters in the country. He's a personable guy. We have a good relationship with him, and he likes our guys.

"Our players are mandated to go to study hall and I monitor their grades on a bi-weekly basis. We're running it like a four-year program and I think that attracts four-year coaches. Our kids are in a program that has structure and are already doing some of the things they're going to be asked to do when they go on to the four-year level."

The structure Gritton refers to should come as a welcome sight to an ISU coaching staff weary of bringing in junior-college players, especially after making several recruiting mistakes over the past few seasons.

Gair's arrival would give the Cyclone secondary a much-needed boost, since both JaMaine Billups and Marc Timmons are graduating.

The West Hills sophomore ranked third in the nation and second in the California JUCO ranks with eight interceptions this fall. He returned one of those for a score to go along with a blocked punt for touchdown. Gair added 68 tackles.

"He is the best safety that I've ever coached," Gritton said. "He's a guy that sets the bar and standard for what type of guy we want running our defense. He would line people up on defense and was out in front of the huddle making all the checks. He's a very smart football player that's very physical and runs well.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's a good kid and stayed out of trouble. He's very focused on what's really important, which is his education."

With Gair spearheading the defense, West Hills finished 7-4 this season and capped the year off with a Graffiti Bowl championship by beating Laney College, 28-24, in Modesto.


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