AMES — Demond Tucker had a prolific year as a nose guard last season, but felt like he could have done a bit more.
The Iowa State football team’s transition to a different scheme could be just the thing that helps Tucker make the jump he desires.
Iowa State played in a 3-4 scheme last season — allowing more linebackers and defensive backs to be available in coverage for the pass-heavy Big 12. In Coach Matt Campbell’s first season in Ames, the Cyclones will base out of a 4-2-5 and put more emphasis at the line of scrimmage.
The 4-2-5 adds another lineman — usually a defensive end — that can help in pass rush, but also drop into coverage. Most importantly for Tucker, it gives the opposition another body to keep an eye on so he can then be freed up from being double-teamed.
“I had a guy right in front of me with a three-man front so I just kind of worked at it to keep myself from being doubled,” Tucker, a senior, said. “This year will be a great transition for us to go to a four-man front.”
Tucker played nose guard, which also is called zero-technique, last season and accumulated 13.0 tackles for loss — second among Big 12 interior defensive linemen — with six sacks. He also earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors and was second-team all-Big 12.
Through the first half of spring practices Tucker has been taking snaps at the three-technique, which offsets him from the offensive guard. With another defensive linemen near the ball, Tucker can use his mobility at 6-foot and 296 pounds to run down the quarterback.
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“He has a knack to rush the passer,” said defensive line coach Eli Rasheed. “When we play a three technique, that guy has to be an active pass-rusher. Really, Demond is fit for that. We play and the A-gap player, which he will be really comfortable when we get to our odd schemes, we’ll pull him back over the zero technique. So he’ll be really good there.”
Iowa State will have Vernell Trent, Pierre Aka and Bobby Leath as prime candidates in the rotation for the defensive tackle spot, but Tucker’s athleticism could make him the biggest weapon. To live up to his goal of becoming the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year this fall, Tucker knows his technique and motor have to keep making strides.
“It’s the ability to play hard on every play and obviously that’s what my expectation is,” Campbell said. “I think every great defensive lineman — and Demond has the physical tools to be a great defensive lineman — now it’s do you embody everything else that comes with it and can you put that all together and become that guy that your full potential looks like and can be?”
When Iowa State enters fall camp, Tucker doesn’t see a ceiling on the number of snaps he could take. He’s also taking matters into his own hands, he said, this summer to keep up on his conditioning.
Tucker said he’s going to pick some of the hottest days he can this summer to go for runs, which was one of the ideas he got based on something Rasheed has been reminding the seniors of this spring.
“Their motto is for us seniors: the sand glass is running and this is our last year,” Tucker said. “We have to perfect our craft at all times and never have an awkward moment.”
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