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THE DEPTH CHART
Defensive end — J.D. Waggoner, jr., 6-3, 255; Mitchell Meyers, sr., 6-4, 255; Jhaustin Thomas, sr., 6-6, 275
Nose guard — Demond Tucker, sr., 6-0, 295; Robby Garcia, jr., 6-4, 285
Defensive tackle — Pierre Aka, sr., 6-4, 295; Vernell Trent, jr., 6-3, 275
Leo — Gabe Luna, sr., 6-2, 250; Justin Stewart, jr., 6-3, 235; JaQuan Bailey, fr., 6-3, 260
NEXT MAN IN
Starters along the defensive line are solid with juniors and seniors in prominent roles, but true freshman JaQuan Bailey is making the coaching staff give him a good look. He’s slotted as a reserve at the Leo position, a hybrid of a defensive end and linebacker, which is asked to do a lot.
Leos have to have a combination of strength and size to square off against offensive tackles, but also have to have the speed to drop back in coverage or stick with tight ends. At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Bailey has the build necessary to get snaps.
Bailey was a surprise on signing day with the 2016 class but joined his twin brother, defensive tackle Joshua Bailey, at Iowa State.
“He’s got a great takeoff and has great technique,” said defensive tackle Demond Tucker. “I feel like if he keeps doing the things he’s doing he’ll probably find a way on the field this year. It’ll be interesting to see.”
MEYERS MAKE HIS CASE
Cancer is in the rearview mirror and senior defensive end Mitchell Meyers is back on the football field doing what he loves.
He hasn’t played since 2014, when he spent most of the season playing inside where he managed to record 30 tackles — third-best total by an ISU down lineman. Meyers hasn’t changed his approach this season, but he does have an appreciation for how far he’s come.
“This is bonus time for me,” Meyers said. “I’m just having fun every day. Obviously this isn’t promised to anybody. Your health isn’t promised. Coming out here and just being able to be on the football field and be with my friends, it’s a really great feeling.”
Starting jobs aren’t promised either, but Meyers hasn’t just put himself in position to play in the season opener. There’s a chance he could be starting in the near future.
“To be honest with you, it’s amazing what he’s doing for our football team right now and really how he’s skyrocketed up the depth chart,” said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. “Even though we kind of thought we knew what we were getting out of Mitchell to see where he’s at right now I think is a huge positive.