Iowa State breakdown

By Chris Dertz and Jimmy Johnson


Quarterbacks: If someone touches the ball on every play, you want them to be good at what they do.

NIU head coach Jerry Kill calls Iowa State signal-caller Austen Arnaud “a great player.” After throwing for 2,015 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, Arnaud is more than just an arm. The junior also rushed for 561 yards on the season as part of the Cyclones’ no-huddle attack.

“That no huddle that group has, that’s just part of college football,” Kill said. “I don’t think it matters, no huddle or huddle. It’s irrelevant. It’s how you play.”


Running Backs: Even as the Big 12 has become a spread offense league, finishing third in the league in rushing is no small feat.

That’s precisely what starting tailback Alexander Robinson did last season, with 1,195 yards on 232 attempts. Stopping Robinson has to be one of NIU’s primary concerns heading into Thursday.

“You have to stop the run,” said NIU defensive lineman D.J. Pirkle. “You have the running back and the quarterback is pretty quick and he likes to run a little bit.”


Offensive Line: An offensive line in the Big 12 has to have some big boys on it.

Iowa State’s unit paved the way for the conference’s third-leading rusher, and is anchored my left tackle Kelechi Osemele, who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last season.

“A lot of our group of kids have gone up against that type of [offensive line] anyway,” Kill said. “I think we’re just excited to do, just like Iowa State and everyone else in college football, we’re all excited to see how we play.”


Wide Receivers: Not one of the Cyclones’ starting wideouts is shorter than 6’1″ inch tall.

The top route runner on Iowa State’s depth chart, junior Sedrick Johnson, comes in largely untested, with only 25 receptions for 224 yards in his career up to this point. Statistically, senior Jake Williams has the most production coming back after a 36 catch, 403 yard campaign in 2009.




NIU head coach Jerry Kill stated that Iowa States’ defense has “very good tacklers and are very disciplined” and that it can certainly be connected with their linebackers.

Junior Matt Tau’fo’ou leads the Cyclones complete makeover at the position as the 5’11”, 239 pound man in the middle will look to build upon the small amount of playing time he had last season. A pair of underclassmen in A.J. Klein and Jake Knott will assume starter roles as well.

“We got the same situation [at linebacker],” Kill said. “We got three or four young linebackers that are going to play on Thursday night and were not going to teach them anything different than what we taught them a year ago.”

Grade: C

Defensive Line

Just like the linebackers, Iowa State’s defensive line will have a new set of starters up front. Redshirt senior Rashawn Parker will look to rebound in his final season as a Cyclone, after a knee injury took him out in the fourth game last season. The NCAA gave Parker a medical hardship approval, allowing him to play another year of football. Parker’s teammate on the opposite end will be a combination of juniors Patrick Neal and Jacob Lattimer, both who have made position changes during their collegiate tenure.

Inside, tackle Bailey Johnson has the most experience in the starts department for the Cyclones interior, with eight, which he made all of last season.

Grade: C-


It isn’t often that a cornerback is the top returning tackler for any football team.

But for Iowa State, junior Leonard Johnson is that guy as the former Freshman All-American made 65 wrap-ups with a pair of interceptions last season.

Ter’Ran Benton is the Cyclones other starting cornerback, and made four starts last season.

“They’re very strong in the secondary,” Kill said. “[They have] two corners that are very gifted.”

Safety David Sims is a prolific ballhawk and is coming off an impressive season with 88 tackles along with five interceptions.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

Freshman Kirby Van Der Kamp will have to lose his training wheels, as he’s gotten the nod to be the starting punter. Grant Mahoney is a career a 67 percent kicker, booting 30 of his 45 career field goals.

Van Der Kamp will have some big shoes to fill in succeeding Mike Brandtner while keeping the success a continuous trend for this season.

“They probably had one of the better kicking games in the country last year,” Kill said.