Paul Rhoads finds his ‘general’ in a mid-year signing class of four JUCO players


ISU football coach Paul Rhoads tips his cap to Iowa State fans as he and his team circle the field after a 34-0 win on Senior Night against the Kansas Jayhawks on Nov. 23, 2013 at Jack Trice Stadium.

Dylan Montz

Paul Rhoads thinks he’s already found his next general on defensive this off-season.

The ISU football coach announced Wednesday the mid-year signing of four junior college players who will join the Cyclones and be available to compete in 2014. Among them is linebacker Jordan Harris, who is coming to Iowa State from Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Although Rhoads could not specify which linebacker position Harris will play come fall, he recognizes Harris’ demeanor is that of a field general, and will be valuable in replacing out-going senior Jeremiah George.

“In his defensive system at Copiah-Lincoln, he’s making the rights and the lefts, the rogers and the louies, he’s calling out formations, he’s calling out plays before they happen,” Rhoads said of Harris. “Film study helps you do that. You study so much tape of an opponent, within a split second of when a play begins or a certain formation or certain alignment split, you see things and you know things.”

In addition to Harris, Iowa State is bringing in defensive back Devron Moore, defensive lineman Gabe Luna and offensive lineman Wendell Taiese. All four JUCO players will enroll for the spring semester at Iowa State and be available to participate in spring practices and workouts.

The ISU coaching staff plans out needs for the roster a year in advance and felt this year was a time to add more JUCO players than other years. Rhoads expects each of the most recent signees to come into spring practice and compete for positions.

After a season of inconsistent offensive line play due to injuries, Rhoads feels Taiese — coming in from Laney Community College — not only adds more depth to the position, but skill as well. Rhoads said Taiese “was 357 pounds of ‘best player available’” when he was being recruited.

“Wendell handles where he is at remarkably well,” Rhoads said. “He’s really light on his feet and really gets in the open field and runs extremely well at that size.”

On the defensive line, Rhoads believes Luna — who is coming from Butler Community College — will fit in with the culture he has established in his tenure and even compares him to junior Cory Morrissey.

“[He] plays from snap through the whistle, keeps his shoulders square, closes down and doesn’t allow space to open up and his coaches agree with that,” Rhoads said of Luna. “He’s a blue collar guy. They had some other guys on that roster that are going to image programs, if you will, and the coach said this is the guy I’m taking first and he’s our guy.”

Moore — a product of NE Oklahoma A&M Junior College — was turned on to the ISU coaching staff by a former college football teammate of Rhoads. What stood out to Rhoads during Moore’s recruitment were his fundamental skills as a defensive back and the ability to back pedal.

“A lot of defensive backs these days play with their hips open,” Rhoads said. “I don’t think you can be a great defensive back and not back pedal. He has the ability to do that and he’s a ball hawk. He’s intercepted a bunch of balls as well as come down field and hit you.”