ISU defense learning a new language


Kamari Cotton-Moya poses at football media day.

Brian Mozey

Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock is an impatient person, but he’s willing to wait for his ISU defense to learn.

Heacock is teaching his defense a new language that has taken the team a little while to adapt. Each practice is a step forward and it allows for some players to become leaders with the spring football game coming in less than a week.

“I’m not a patient person,” Heacock said. “I’ve been in this game too long to stay patient, so I know I’m not a patient person.”

Iowa State had another scrimmage of the spring season at Jack Trice Stadium on April 9, which opened Heacock’s eyes to possibilities for the fall regular season. The veteran defensive players stood out the most to Heacock, especially safety Kamari Cotton-Moya and defensive lineman Demond Tucker.

During the scrimmage, Cotton-Moya had his time on the football field, but he was also on the bicycle to stretch out his muscles. It didn’t look too concerning because he went back out on the field and had an interception, but Campbell said he’s relying on Cotton-Moya and his health to lead the ISU defense.

“[Cotton-Moya’s] a sharp player and I’ve been pleased with his learning,” Heacock said. “He’s a leader in the locker room and I appreciate his work habits and I know he’ll get better as we go along.”

Heacock said Tucker is becoming more aggressive off the line and getting to the opponent’s quarterback quicker than ever before. Tucker has always been a rollercoaster with great games followed by forgetful games, so Heacock and Campbell are excited to see his leadership on the defensive line.

Heacock said he was also impressed with defensive end Gabe Luna, who will take over the “Leo” position in the fall. Luna has made the transition from defensive end to the most important linebacker position over a short offseason.

“His mistakes were minimal today and he showed leadership by getting guys into formations,” Heacock said. “He’s a physical guy and shows great qualities at the linebacker position.”

Even though Heacock has seen leaders on defense, he is also looking for improvements. The biggest question mark on the defense is Iowa State’s linebackers because of the expectations for them at the beginning of the spring practices.

Heacock admitted that he’s been moving the linebackers around with the different formations, so those players have had plenty to handle. On top of that, these players need to learn a new language and play style.

The previous defensive coordinator, Wally Burnham, is out of Iowa State. Heacock is in and he has a different play scheme and mentality, which makes the ISU players learn a different playbook. That’s been the hardest part for the ISU defense, and Heacock is learning how to stay patient with his team.

“I’m sharp enough to know whether our guys are working at the [new language], and I believe they are,” Heacock said. “We’re a long way from where we need to be, but if we’re taking steps to becoming better every day, that’s all I can ask for in the end.”