Notebook: Heacock praises Cyclones’ competitiveness, talks Will McElvain

Iowa State defensive back Tayvonn Kyle makes a tackle against Baylor Saturday. Iowa State won 38-31.

Sam Stuve

The Iowa State football season is nearly upon us.

With film to study and match-ups to prepare for ahead of Saturday’s season-opener, Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock spoke with members of the media Wednesday, previewing some position groups and what they may see against Northern Iowa. 

Heacock’s thoughts on interior defensive linemen

Iowa State isn’t losing many significant pieces on either side of the ball.

However, where Iowa State is losing production is on the defensive line, even though it still has plenty of talent and experience in the room.

Some of the young players that Heacock brought up Wednesday were J.R. Singleton, Howard Brown, and Isaiah Lee.

“I think at that position, we’ve been blessed because there’s been every day competition,” Heacock said. “As I said earlier, in camp, if you don’t show up, you can get embarrassed and somebody can take your spot. I don’t know if that group has gotten embarrassed, I just think that there’s been such keen competition.”

On the most recent depth chart, Singleton, a redshirt freshman, is listed as the starter at nose guard, with Lee being the backup. Singleton is a 6-foot-2 295 pounds and is from Gurnee, Ill. 

“He has done a great job and is just as powerful and very strong, as a young guy plays with great energy,” Heacock said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve seen is the energy in which he plays with and then he’s developed himself this off season to be, he does a great job at three technique.”

The competition in the defensive line room is similar to what is happening in the secondary, according to Heacock.

Competition amongst the defensive backs

Iowa State has established starters in the secondary with Anthony Johnson Jr. at corner, along with either Datrone Young or Tayvonn Kyle at the other corner spot and Greg Eisworth at one of the safety spots. However, Heacock said there’s a lot of guys fighting for any playing time they can get.

“It’s been awesome, because whenever you have competition, it makes each guy better and then in turn makes your defense better or your team better,” Heacock said.

One of the new faces in the safeties room is Jaquan Amos, a transfer from Villanova.

“I think for Jaquan, he’s still learning what’s going on, what we’re doing, he played corner a year ago,” Heacock said.

Amos appears to be in contention with players like Kym-Mani King for the starting strong safety spot, and both have an “or” next to their names, with Jordyn Morgan being the third name on that list. 

“I think for Kym-Mani he got a lot of reps accordion towards the end of the year at corner and then we put him at safety,” Heacock said. “So I think they’re both (Amos and King) learning as it goes along, but man they should have competed, it’s allowed them to get some great reps and both of them have improved, I’m excited about both of them playing.”

While Amos and King are at new positions, the opposing quarterback they might face on Saturday is familiar to the Cyclones. 

Thoughts on Will McElvain

In the first start of his collegiate career, Will McElvain, a redshirt freshman at the time, nearly led the Panthers to an upset against the Cyclones when the Cyclones needed triple overtime to beat the Panthers 29-26 in 2019.

Now in his redshirt sophomore year, the Des Moines native could pose a threat to the Iowa State defense if he is named as Northern Iowa’s starter for Saturday.

“I think first and foremost, he’s kind of become a veteran, obviously, we played against him… I think he’s grown through that year, and then through the 2020 season,” Heacock said. “I just think he’s become a veteran, he does a great job, he can make throws, he’s very active in the pocket.”

Heacock said McElvain is good with his feet and can make downfield plays happen.

“Every game that you watch him play, he makes plays down the field with his feet and I just think he makes you defend every inch of the field,” Heacock said. 

McElvain is in a battle for the starting quarterback spot with Michigan State transfer Theo Day, according to the Waterloo Courier.