2019 Iowa State positional breakdown: Defensive end

Defensive end JaQuan Bailey goes to tackle West Virginia quarterback Will Grier on Oct. 13, 2018. Iowa State’s defensive end corps is one of the deepest positional groups on the team.

Jack Shover

At defensive end, Iowa State will be returning every starter who was a part of the stingiest defense in the Big 12 against the run, and second-best defense in the Big 12 against the pass.

Iowa State returns one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 and adds several young players into the mix to add even more depth to one of the already deepest positional corps on the team entering 2019.

Last season, Iowa State was the top team in the Big 12 in scoring defense and was second in total yards per game. Against the run, Iowa State only allowed 115 yards per game, which was the best mark amongsa the Big 12 programs.

JaQuan Bailey

The most experienced player on the Cyclones defense, junior Jaquan Bailey, has started 33 straight games for Iowa State and will be entering the 2019 season as a senior.

Bailey finished his junior season with 46 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was selected to the All-Big 12 Second Team, and his 14.5 tackles for loss led the team, and so did his eight sacks, which were the third-most ever by a Cyclone.

While Iowa State likes to move their defensive playmakers around, Bailey typically lines up on the “weak” side of the offensive formation or opposite of the offenses’ tight end or H-back.

Bailey was on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list for the nation’s top defensive end last season and will be the Cyclones’ best player at generating pressure on quarterbacks and disrupting offenses off of the edge of the defense next season.

Matt Leo

Senior Matt Leo, an Australian rugby convert, had five starts in 13 games played last season after taking over for an injured Eyioma Uwazurike, junior, at strong side defensive end.

Leo produced 19 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks for the Cyclones last season.

Despite being 27 years old entering his redshirt senior year, Leo didn’t start playing football until he enrolled at Arizona Western Community College, and has a chiseled frame at 6 feet 7 inches and 275 pounds.

Moving into next season, Leo and Uwazurike will battle for the starting defensive end spot opposite of Bailey, but Leo also has the ability to move inside to tackle for pass rushing situations.

Eyioma Uwazurike

Uwazurike missed significant time last season due to injury, but he started eight of the nine games he appeared in.

In that time, the redshirt junior still finished with 27 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack.

During last season’s bowl game against Washington State, Uwazurike was ejected for targeting on opposing quarterback Gardner Minshew and will likely miss the first half of Iowa State’s opening game due to the NCAA’s targeting rules.

Zach Peterson

Peterson was one of three freshmen to not redshirt last year and played in eight games on special teams and recorded four tackles while being awarded the Dury Moss Outstanding Newcomer Award by the team.

The North Scott High School product was an Iowa First Team All-State selection and a three-star recruit in his senior year. Peterson also finished third at 220 pounds at the state wrestling tournament.

Due to his impact on special teams his first year at Iowa State, Peterson will be another special teams contributor in 2019 while adding depth and pushing for snaps at end.

Cordarrius Bailey

Built more like an outside linebacker than a three-front defensive end, junior Cordarrius Bailey — no relation to Jaquan Bailey — played in all 13 games last season, primarily on special teams, and had three tackles.

Bailey is rail-thin at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 235 pounds but can still offer value for the Cyclones in pass rushing situations and on special teams again. At his current weight, it’s difficult to envision Bailey being able to hold up in the run game against offensive linemen who have around 65 pounds on him.

Bailey could slot in as the No. 2 or No. 3 player on the depth chart at weakside defensive end behind JaQuan Bailey.

Blake Peterson

Though likely to redshirt his freshman year, Peterson should still see limited action for the Cyclones coming out of South Dakota as a four-star defensive end.

Peterson is entering college at a solid weight of 255 pounds and finished his senior year of high school with 47.5 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and four sacks en route to being a First Team All-State selection.