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2021 College Football Preview: #6 Iowa State

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The Iowa State Cyclones have the sixth spot in our College Football Preseason rankings. It’s quite amazing to see how far head coach Matt Campbell has taken this Cyclones program. This 2021 Iowa State team could be the best in school history.

Last year’s team went 9-3 and won the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. Everyone in Ames is hoping for a Big 12 championship but can the Cyclones get past Oklahoma? Here is a closer look at the 2021 Iowa State Cyclones.

2021 Offense

QB Brock Purdy returns for his fourth season under center for the Cyclones (Ourlads.com). The senior threw for 2,750 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago. Purdy rushed for five scores as well last year, but what sets him apart is his leadership ability.

Breece Hall returns as the Cyclones running back after a fantastic 2020 campaign that saw him win the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award. The 6-1 215 pound junior rushed for 1,572 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last year. Hall is poised for another huge season since four out of the five starting offensive linemen are upperclassmen.

Wide receiver Xavier Hutchison led the team in receiving yards in 2020 (771). Sean Shaw Jr. and Tarique Milton should both play a larger role in the offense this year. One of the offense’s best weapons is tight end Charlie Kolar, who caught seven touchdowns last year and was named to the 2021 AP Preseason All-American team.

2021 Defense

The Cyclones defense performed very well in 2020 and was considered to be one of the best units in the Big 12. Iowa State ranked eighth in the country against the run by only allowing 104.3 yards per game. This year’s defense is stacked with plenty of experience as 10 out of the 11 starters are upperclassmen. 

The defensive line is a force to be reckoned with, especially with talented pass rushers like Will McDonald leading the way. McDonald led the team with 10.5 sacks in only 11 games last season. Expect another strong season from McDonald in 2021, even though many teams will double team him.

The Cyclones’ best defensive player is linebacker Mike Rose. The senior led the team in tackles with 99 and was selected to the 2021 AP Preseason All-America Team. Rose also led the team with five interceptions a year ago.

2021 Special Teams

The Cyclones starting kicker job is still up for grabs heading into fall camp. Redshirt senior Connor Assalley hit 13 of 19 field-goal attempts in 2020 but he will be pushed by Andrew Mevis, who transferred in from Fordham.

The punt return duties will be split between Tarique Milton and Greg Eisworth II. Both have a bit of experience on special teams.

The kick return job will be handled by backup running back Jirehl Brock, a 6-foot 215-pound redshirt sophomore who has the speed and agility to give all defenders a hard time.

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