Yesterday, we focused on an Iowa State offense that can be dangerous. Today, we turn our attention to a defense with several good players, especially at linebacker.
The Cyclones are likely to show both 3 and 4 man fronts. The one player to watch along the defensive line is nose tackle Ray Lima. Lima was a first-team All-Big 12 member a season ago and has continued to impress this season. In the past, Zach Shackelford has found his hands full with guys like Lima, so Shackelford will have to win at the point of attack for the Longhorns to have success running the ball.
Against the pass, the Cyclones have struggled to get pressure at times, especially in their 3-man front (sounds familiar?). They rank in the middle of the country in terms of sacks per game and are often bringing some of their talented linebackers on blitzes to create chaos.
Iowa State is very strong at linebacker. Mike Rose and Marcel Spears are two of the most talented linebackers in the conference. Spears leads the Cyclones with 70 tackles while Rose ranks 3rd with 58. Spears, in particular, is extremely dangerous and is having an all-conference type season. Middle linebacker O’Rien Vance is in his first season as a full-time starter and leads the team with 6.5 sacks.
The Cyclones start a pair of sophomores at corner in Datrone Young and Anthony Johnson. Both will surely have their hands full with Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay. Safety Greg Elsworth was the 2018 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year, and he has followed it up with a solid 2019. The Cyclones will mix up coverages frequently and try to force Sam Ehlinger into some decisions he wishes he had back.
Texas came out with some wrinkles offensively against Kansas State, and they will have to continue with the unpredictability this weekend. The offensive coaching staff for Texas has shown in the past they will abandon the run if they aren’t able to establish a rhythm early. The best scenario for Texas is they are able to get chunk yards on the ground early in the game with concepts outside of their bread-and-butter. If they are able to do that, then the entire playbook will begin to open up.
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