ISU defensive coordinator Wally Burnham walked off the field with a smile on his face at the Bergstrom Football Facility after the first spring practice March 10.
With the departure of six defensive starters last season, including All-Big 12 linebacker Jeremiah George, Burnham has a lot of new faces to work with. Despite injuries, transfers and the absence of some incoming freshman at the team's first practice, he's happy with what he has seen.
"Man, I’ll tell you what, we’re young and I’m happy," Burnham said. "We’ve got a lot of young talent out there on defense and we don’t know where we’re going. It’s kind of like breaking in a wild horse."
The defense will be led by a defensive line that returns more starts than any other position group on defense. On March 10, however, the group was as inexperienced as any other on the field as two players with starting experience — Rodney Coe and David Irving — were sidelined after off-season shoulder surgeries.
The leadership role will likely be filled by senior defensive end Cory Morrissey, who returns this season after leading the defensive line in tackles last season. With the departure of George, the undisputed team leader and MVP, Morrissey, hopes to be the next Cyclone defender to step up as a leader.
"I go for more leading by example," Morrissey said. "I go 100 percent every play and I try to coach them to go 100 percent, too. I’m not a whole bunch of rah-rah like Jeremiah George was but I’ll get in somebody’s face if they need something."
With the defensive line likely to be the anchor of the defense, there is more uncertainty in the linebacking corps and secondary. JUCO transfers Jordan Harris and Devron Moore are expected to compete for immediate playing time in the linebacker and secondary spots respectively.
With linebacker Luke Knott out indefinitely after off-season hip surgery and Jared Brackens out the first two practices with a suspension, the depth of the linebacking corps will be challenged. After one day of practice, a lot of questions have yet to be answered.
"Wow, we’ve got a long way to go," Burnham said. "I like the group, it’s a good group. Got some talent in there. Got some kids that I think will be tough physically and mentally."
Morrissey set to lead young players on defense
Iowa State Daily | Mar 12