Cornerbacks leading young Cyclone secondary

Iowa State junior Brian Peavy jumps to try to bring down Northern Iowa’s Jalen Rima. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers, 42-24.

Aaron Marner

Iowa State’s defense became a major talking point last season due to how stifling it was, even against the best opponents.

The Cyclones shut out Kansas in the sixth week of the season. Texas Tech’s up-tempo offense was held to just 13 points. No. 4 TCU came into Jack Trice Stadium and scored only a touchdown.

Over the final eight games of the season, only one opponent scored more than 20 points on the Cyclones. And a huge part of that in the pass-happy Big 12 conference was Iowa State’s secondary.

This season, Iowa State returns its most valuable secondary weapon — senior cornerback Brian Peavy, who was on the NFL radar after his junior season. He and fellow senior cornerback D’Andre Payne are two key veterans for a secondary that loses several starters.

“[Peavy and Payne] have just got a lot of playing experience which is great,” said cornerbacks coach D.K. McDonald. “I think the big goal for those two really this year is to multiply themselves, to help out some of the young guys we have in the room.”

Peavy was named first-team All-Big 12 by ESPN in 2017 and was second-team by the coaches and AP. He was also a co-captain, the only non-senior on the team to have that honor a year ago.

Peavy tested the NFL waters after last season but decided to come back for his final college season.

“It’s kind of like a cheat sheet,” Peavy said. “I know what they want and it’s just up to me to correct it and show them I can do it.”

McDonald mentioned Peavy could be one of, if not the, best cornerbacks in college football next season.

The talent is there. The work ethic is there. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together for a full season and being a better all-around player.

Peavy has also taken snaps on special teams this spring, even trying his hand as a punt returner.

“I’m trying to be versatile,” Peavy said with a smile. “I’m catching punts. They haven’t put me on the field at quarterback yet but on the side I try to get my arm warmed up before practice.

“I even did a little kicking myself.”

While Peavy won’t actually be playing quarterback and handling kicking duties, the punt returning idea is real. And he feels he can make an impact there, which would help his versatility and pro potential.

Peavy also credited Payne for pushing him to be better.

“That’s my dog,” Payne said with a smile. “We’re with each other every day pretty much, always doing stuff together.”

Those two have gone from being young guys trying to make an impact to being the top dogs in the secondary. Now, they both agreed, it’s their time to teach the younger guys in the room.

Payne mentioned how confident and talented some of the freshmen and sophomores are, which is a positive development. Peavy was thrust into action as a redshirt freshman. He wasn’t given a ton of time to acclimate to the college game, but the current crop of youngsters have had that chance.

But the best way to get guys ready is to lead by example. Peavy and Payne remain ultra competitive, both on and off the field.

“Guys really don’t like watching film with us because we’ll stay on a play for 30 minutes,” Peavy said. “It’s a bad deal.”