116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES - Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads could clearly see the effects of his three-man front defense against Northern Iowa.
The Cyclones were active at the line of scrimmage, holding the new up-tempo Panthers offense to 302 total yards while they registered 13 tackles for loss and six sacks for the first time in 10 years. But different offenses dictate different styles of defense, and Iowa State is getting ready to make a change.
Using the three-man front against Northern Iowa was likely the catalyst for success, but this weekend against Iowa, Rhoads knows the defense will have to adapt. The Hawkeyes will require a little more attention up front with four ISU defensive linemen.
'You're not going to survive in a three-man front against that offense,” Rhoads said at his Monday news conference. 'So you'll see both varieties on Saturday. The three-man stuff you'll see matched up when necessary, whether it be down and distance or personnel situations. The same will be true for the four-man front.”
Iowa State will use a 3-4 scheme as its base defense - especially in the pass-heavy Big 12 - but Iowa requires a different setup. The Hawkeyes have bruisers on their offensive line and LeShun Daniels gained 123 yards in last week's season opener while Iowa recorded 210 yards on the ground.
Three-man fronts allow the defense to use four linebackers who aid in pass coverage and be more creative in blitzes while four-man fronts usually contend with big offensive linemen. Linebacker Levi Peters said the adjustment takes more time in the film room to hone in on how defensive responsibilities change between schemes.
'It's going to take a lot of mental reps,” Peters said. 'It's hard to go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 so extra film and extra work, it's going to be tough but I think we can do it.”
The defensive line will be the position group that will be most affected by the alteration, but it is also the group that arguably produced the most against Northern Iowa. Defensive end Dale Pierson had five tackles - with three sacks - and a momentum-swinging interception in the second quarter.
Rhoads has preached production from the defensive line dating back to fall camp, and against Iowa, that group will be forced to tweak what worked against the Panthers.
'What our defense brings is a lot of quickness,” Pierson said. 'I know that (Iowa is) a bigger offense than we faced (the other day), but I think with our quickness and our speed we can adapt to it pretty well.”
Pierson exemplifies the progress made by the nearly dozen junior college players that fill the ISU defensive depth chart. He played just three snaps in the 2014 season opener, but worked into the rotation near the middle of the season and opened fall camp No. 1 at right end.
'(Pierson has) not only picked up where that trailed off, but added to it as a second-year JC player and starter,” Rhoads said. 'It'll be fun to have Trent Taylor back in the lineup because he is in a similar position and will add, hopefully, to that defensive front.”
‘Good chance' Burton will return to starting lineup
Rhoads said Monday he believes there is a ‘good chance' starting right guard Daniel Burton will return to the lineup against Iowa after sitting out last Saturday.
The red-shirt junior suffered a setback with a nagging knee injury in preparation for the season-opener, and appeared on the field without pads. Rhoads said he still needs to see Burton be able to plant his foot and drive to know if he is at full strength.
'When you're a skill guy and out in space, you're not dealing with as much force against you,” Rhoads said. 'It's just your running speed is a different deal. But when you're pushing against another 300-pounder, we want to make sure he's at that kind of strength.”
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org