Secondary keys Iowa State defense

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 11, 2012
(Updates. With AP Photos.) With two new starters playing in a pass-happy league, there were legitimate questions about Iowa State's secondary as the season began. Not so much anymore after two games, both of them victories. First-year starters Jansen Watson at cornerback and Durrell Givens at strong safety have joined returning regulars Jeremy Reeves (cornerback) and Jacques Washington (free safety) to form an aggressive unit with a nose-for-the-ball mentality. Neither of the first two opponents, Tulsa and Iowa, completed 50 percent of its passes against the Cyclones. Iowa State's defenders have intercepted four passes, including game-clinching picks each Saturday, and they're breaking up passes at a far greater rate than in past seasons. ''I have a lot of confidence in our secondary,'' Givens said Monday. ''We have a lot of athletic guys, and we're all hungry to make plays and actually get the name of being a great secondary.'' The Cyclones have broken up 15 passes so far, after recording 48 breakups in 13 games last season and just 35 in 2010. Coach Paul Rhoads credits first-year secondary coach Troy Douglas for bringing a more aggressive philosophy to pass coverage. Douglas came to Iowa State from North Carolina and is in his 23rd season coaching defensive backs, seven of whom are now in the NFL. ''He spends more time changing direction and attacking the football and catching footballs in practice than any DB guy I've ever been around,'' said Rhoads, once a secondary coach himself. ''It's proven very productive and beneficial for our kids and our football team right now. I like the way he coaches.'' That work shows in the numbers. Cody Green of Tulsa and Iowa's James Vandenberg combined to complete only 47.3 percent of their passes against Iowa State, and each was intercepted twice. Tulsa has an outstanding receiver in Willie Carter, who caught 61 passes last year. He caught one against Iowa State and was tackled at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Vandenberg threw 25 touchdown passes last fall but never reached the end zone in last Saturday's 9-6 loss to the Cyclones. None of that has surprised veteran linebacker Jake Knott, who saw it coming last spring. ''I knew they were going to be fine and they were going to make a lot of plays,'' Knott said. ''We haven't had those types of playmakers at safety and the quickness at corner that we have now. We've got some great secondary guys. As you can see in those first two games, they've made quite a few plays, and they're going to keep doing that.'' The secondary has been critical for a defense that surrendered 16 points in the first quarter of the season opener against Tulsa, but only 13 in the following seven quarters. Iowa State limited Iowa to just two field goals, the first time the Hawkeyes failed to score a touchdown at home under coach Kirk Ferentz, now in his 14th season. Rhoads said Douglas' work in practice has given the defensive backs the confidence to try to make plays on the ball. ''Some people have a knack for intercepting the ball,'' he said. ''But until you go intercept it, until you're aggressive and go after it and realize, I could make that play, you remain tentative. And Troy coaches the guys in a way to be aggressive. That's not coaching them in a way to be gamblers. They do it in a smart fashion. But they're aggressive at doing it because they do it over and over and over.'' The Cyclones, who host Western Illinois on Saturday night, don't start Big 12 play for another two weeks, so they'll still have to face a succession of good quarterbacks down the road, big-time passers such as Seth Doege of Texas Tech, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, Geno Smith of West Virginia and Kansas State's Collin Klein, who has sharpened his passing. But Iowa State is at least starting to look like a team that can stand up against those kinds of offenses. ''It's just a lot of guys in years past bringing other guys along with them,'' Knott said. (Linebacker) Jeremiah George is a great example. He's a guy who couldn't go right or left if you told him to last year. Now he's figured everything out. That's the kind of stuff that's happened. That's why we're able to play a little bit better.''
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
The Best Names in College Football for 2016
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Josh Gordon will be restricted free agent after 2016

Chargers release statement on Joey Bosa situation

Yoenis Cespedes says he will not opt out of Mets contract

Zach Johnson unloads on Olympic golf

Drew Brees says players do not trust league office, Goodell

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Lawsuit over Hall of Fame Game refiled after McAfee comments

Report: Griffin plans to re-sign with Clippers, won't be traded

Report: Wentz unlikely to see any playing time this season

Minnesota Wild names Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ official goal song

Gabby Douglas joining judges for Miss America pageant

Recruit decommits from Michigan after mail mistake

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron's 'Cleveland Hustles'

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

24 quintessential moments of Kobe Bryant's career

Revisiting the 10 biggest mistakes of the NFL offseason

One Gotta Go: NFL legends (and Jose Canseco!) have no love for Captain America

Four WNBA teams to pay attention to post-Olympic break

Madden 17 shows how vital a fresh coat of paint can be

Why people just can't get behind the Washington Nationals

Washington's Josh Norman speaks candidly about multiple NFL talking points

Derrick Rose: Knicks have chance to win every game

Ranking the MLB divisional races

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron James' 'Cleveland Hustles'

Ranking the uniforms of the NFL from worst to best

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

24 quintessential moments of Kobe Bryant's career

One Gotta Go: NFL legends (and Jose Canseco!) have no love for Captain America

Four WNBA teams to pay attention to post-Olympic break

Madden 17 shows how vital a fresh coat of paint can be

Why people just can't get behind the Washington Nationals

QUIZ: Name every player to win a championship with Kobe Bryant

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker