ISU defense changes from 3-4 to 4-2-5

Defensive line coach Eli Rasheed coaches defense at the first football practice of the season on March 8. This is his first season coaching at Iowa State. Rasheed worked with Matt Campbell’s staff at Toledo for seven seasons.

Brian Mozey

When ISU head football coach Matt Campbell first came to Iowa State last November, he called an audible for the defense.

The team responded with the 4-2-5 defense formation. 

Campbell and the defensive coordinators are changing former head coach Paul Rhoads’ 3-4 defense to Campbell’s 4-2-5 defense. It’s a different style and tempo of defense, but the players are ready for the challenge, especially redshirt senior defensive end Gabe Luna. 

“Speed. I’m going to tell you that this defense is going to be a lot faster,” Luna said. “I’m not going to get into too much detail, but it’ll be noticeable. April 16 will be eye opening for fans and Cyclone Nation.”

The 4-2-5 defense is different from the 3-4 because players are going to be in different positions than previous seasons. The 4-2-5 will consist of four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

This new formation means that Iowa State needs to add one defensive lineman onto the scrimmage line, but take away two linebackers in its middle core. Defensive line coach Eli Rasheed and Campbell agreed that they’re going to implement a “Leo” position. 

The Leo position will be filled by Luna for now because of his seniority and his experience at the position in junior college.

“I think we have a guy in Gabe Luna that could fill that Leo position,” Rasheed said. “He’s healthy, he’s active in the front and he’s got a high football IQ. We’ll hide him on the field, but he gives us the best chance at that position.”

Campbell enjoys the 4-2-5 defense because it gives the team flexibility to change schemes and plays on a quicker level. It also creates a more fast-pace tempo, which means defensive players need to have the speed and ability to react correctly from the line of scrimmage.

The 4-2-5 defense is not the only formation Campbell is projecting this season, but it’s the basis for other systems. Campbell said the defense could easily go into a 3-4, 3-3 stack and sometimes use only two defensive linemen, which will make the defense unpredictable.

The goal for this 4-2-5 defense is to add another defensive lineman, so Iowa State can pressure the quarterback and stop the runs on a more frequent basis. The five defensive backs allow the safeties and cornerbacks to create man-to-man or a more complex zone coverage to upset many of the Big 12 passing teams.

Campbell is excited for this new defense formation, but he knows there’s a lot of work ahead to perfect this particular coverage.

“I think this defense will have flexibility to put our best guys out on the field and be successful,” Campbell said. “The transition has been good, but now we just have to perfect it for this upcoming fall.”