By Rob Gray
AMES — Just three years ago, Iowa State defensive tackle Rodney Coe played in the Army All-American game.
His position: Running back.
His weight: 230.
“I really have no idea,” said Coe, who committed to Iowa out of high school but went to Iowa Western and eventually signed with the Cyclones. “After going from running back, weighing 230 my senior year of high school, going to junior college, 260. The next year, 295. Everybody was just, like, it’s my frame. I have a big frame, so I’m just going to keep putting on weight.”
Coe, a junior from Fulton, Mo., may have finally reached a possible tipping point.
He’s listed at 6-3, 305.
“Really lean,” ISU defensive tackles coach Shane Burnham said.
“Really raw,” Burnham added.
Nonetheless, Coe’s expected to be a difference-maker at a position group that seeks to project more ferocity despite plenty of youth peppering the three-deeps.
Burnham likes what he’s seen from more experienced players — and current No. 1s — Brandon Jensen and Walter Woods III.
Jensen, he said, is further along at this point in his career than former Cyclone nose guard Jake McDonough, who spent time in New York Jets camp this summer.
“He’s got that nasty side I kind of always talk about,” Burnham said of Jensen.
Burnham’s also been impressed by redshirt freshmen Pierre Aka and Devlyn Cousin, and junior Austin Krick, among others.
It’s a position that could surprise — and must if the Cyclones hope to remain a top-three Big 12 scoring defense (24.5 points per game allowed in 2012) after losing linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, McDonough, cornerback Jeremy Reeves and safety Durrell Givens to graduation.
“We’ve played around here and won games with a lot less talent inside,” Burnham said. “Now, again, it’s just potential, talent, whatever, it’s not production yet. But they’re tough, eager and willing, so I’m excited about the future.”
So is Coe, who said he doesn’t miss running back.
“I like to say I’d rather hit people than get hit, you know?” Coe said.
That’s what Burnham likes to hear, of course.
“I told Rodney, ‘You’re going to play this year,’” Burnham said. “‘Whether you play 20-30 snaps and you’re out there playing, or whether you play 20-30 snaps and you’re out there being productive‘ — that’s up to him and me. But I’m excited.”
And, to recap, Coe’s lean, raw and powerful.
So much so it’s hard for Burnham to picture him carrying the ball.
“An Iowa clip happened to show up on some technique I was teaching and I said, ‘They really recruited you to play running back?’” Burnham asked Coe in a film session. “He said, ‘Coach, I was 225 (then).’ That was many cheeseburgers ago, but he looks good. Natural. He’s a specimen.”NOTES: Rhoads said the first practice in pads Wednesday produced uneven results. “Happy with the overall tempo of our practice,” he said. “Too many peaks and valleys from different position groups and different sides of the ball.” ... Cyclone fans have again bought season tickets at a record-setting rate (40,600 purchased as of Wednesday morning). It beats last year’s benchmark of 40,547.