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Iowa State Daily

Player to Watch: Cincinnati

Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s Eli Sanders (6) runs the ball during the second half of the Jack Trice Legacy football game against Texas Christian on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State:

Beau Freyler – Safety

Let’s start with an obvious choice for a player to watch. Freyler is coming off yet another explosive game on the defensive end of the ball, which saw him get two interceptions and lead the team in tackles against TCU.

Freyler’s efforts earned him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. With Freyler being a force to be reckoned with across the field, the Cyclones’ defense made quick work of the Horned Frogs. 

Cincinnati is an offensively dominant team with weapons all across the board. With the threat the Bearcats pose on the ground and the talent in the skies, the safety position will take a beating come Saturday. Freyler will need to be airtight again if the Cyclones want to keep Cincinnati’s big plays to a minimum.

Eli Sanders – Running Back

The Iowa State run game has been on the rise since the start of the Big 12 season. Every game, the running backs look more comfortable and the offensive line looks to be improving.

A big reason that the run game has seen such quick improvement has been the return of Sanders. After dealing with some injuries early in the year, Sanders made the most of his return to the field by ripping off multiple solid runs against Oklahoma State. Since then, Sanders has two touchdowns on the ground and leads the team in rushing yards.

Sanders is also one of two backs that averages around five yards per carry, which was a big uptick from the three yards the team was averaging before his return. With his speed and elusiveness, the Bearcats will be in for a beating on the ground, as the Cyclones look to continue building off strong performances.

Brendan Black – Offensive Lineman

An underrated player who may have gone under the radar of most people is Black. After moving up the depth chart since the start of the conference season, Black has cemented himself as a quality starter on the offensive line.

Black is a true freshman lineman and the first true freshman to start at right guard since 2008. The biggest characteristic that coaches and teammates of Black mentioned was his strength. He already appears to be one of the strongest kids on the team, which is rare for a true freshman.

Black was dominant against TCU, pushing defenders down the field with ease and constantly opening up holes for his running backs. It is safe to say that the recent success of the run game is in part thanks to the efforts of the true freshman. As other veterans look to make an impact on the offensive line, expect Black to complement them as the offensive line and the run game continue to improve.


Emory Jones – Quarterback

Jones is an eerily similar quarterback to Iowa State’s Rocco Becht in the way he manages the Bearcats throughout games. Jones is efficient in the air and a solid piece to the success in the run game.

Just looking at Jones’ passing stats next to Becht’s, it would appear that they are the exact same player. Both have 60% completion, both have just over 1,220 yards, both have 10 touchdowns and both have around a 64 quarterback rating. Along with those stats, Jones just has one more interception than Becht.

The major difference comes in what type of player Jones is. He is a dual-threat quarterback, as he is the second-leading rusher on the team. Jones also has three touchdowns on the ground. With Cincinnati bringing a rushing version of Becht to the field Saturday, Iowa State’s defense will have to be aware of the threat that Cincinnati’s offense can bring with Jones at the helm.

Corey Kiner – Running Back

One player that has been talked about a considerable amount has been Kiner. He is talented on the ground and has the agility and elusiveness to make defenders miss. With the recent struggles Iowa State’s defense has had with tackling, Kiner could be a thorn in their side all day long.

Kiner is also an explosive runner similar to TCU’s Emani Bailey, who ripped apart Iowa State’s defense. Kiner has two games over 100 yards rushing where he broke off runs of over 50 yards. Although Kiner has slowed down a bit since his hot start to the season, he still has the potential to be a major threat on the ground.

Kiner has over 400 yards on the season with two touchdowns while averaging over five yards per carry. Expect Kiner to be the main rusher alongside Jones as the two add versatility to a dangerous Cincinnati offense.

Xzavier Henderson – Wide Receiver

Henderson has been the main ball catcher for the Bearcats through the start of the season and for good reason. Henderson has the speed and route-running to make big catches when need be.

Henderson is the leading receiver even though he only has 30 receptions on the year. He is already up to 414 yards. Henderson also has two games of over 100 yards receiving. 

His best game came in week three when he caught 12 catches for 140 yards. Although he did not have as many yards as the first week or a touchdown, he made more catches when the Bearcats needed him to. Henderson also has receptions of over 20 yards in all but one of his games. If Henderson can rip off a big play or two, which Iowa State’s defense has let up through the season, he will see his name at the top of the receiving room yet again.

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