Iowa State football ratings: Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock cooks up ingredients for ‘secret sauce’

Also, will Hunter Dekkers throw deeper this fall?

Iowa State defensive coach Jon Heacock (left) answers a question as offensive coach Tom Manning looks on during a press conference before the 2017 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. Five years later, Heacock is still the Cyclones’ defensive coordinator and Manning remains the offensive coordinator. (The Gazette)

AMES – This is usually a combination of sweet and spicy. Mix some salt and another layer of flavor and you have a tasty finishing sauce in the kitchen. The same goes for a football team, believes Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock — and no matter how many seasoned cooks he has, the basic ingredients never change.

“We don’t approach things any differently,” said Heacock, who will lead a predominantly young side on the pitch this season. “They will always – this group – always be the secret sauce and we hope the recipe will be passed down as recipes through the family. This is what you hope to happen. And that’s where (senior linebacker) O’Rien Vance comes in. That’s where (senior defensive back) Anthony Johnson comes in. That’s where (senior point rusher) Will McDonald comes in. That’s where the veterans come in. They have to be able to give the rest of the recipe to the youngsters, and the youngsters have to be willing to read it and use it. If they do, we’ll be in great shape.

Vance brings comprehensive knowledge and expert execution. Johnson is the experimenter – moving to the boundary safety position after playing cornerback before. McDonald’s is something of a celebrity chef, already owning the ISU’s all-time and single-season sack records (29 and 11.5, respectively). And with this group of Cyclones, there aren’t too many cooks messing up the kitchen. The more you stir, the better.

“To play this game, you can’t play alone,” Heacock said. “You have to be ready to listen, to learn, to get help from other players and coaches; on the field and off the field. »

Heacock didn’t specifically mention defensive tackle Isaiah Lee by name when defining what the term “secret sauce” means to his defense, but there’s no doubt the burly 6-0, 305-pound senior Chicago is one of its key ingredients.

Lee had four tackles for loss in the final half of the 2021 season — and had a career-high four tackles and a half-sack in the Cheez-It Bowl loss to Clemson.

“He did a good job,” Heacock said. “I think everyone is happy.”

The same goes for Lee, who learned from former NFL-bound ISU defensive tackle Enyi Uwazurike what it takes to do and be part of Heacock’s thick cookbook.

“You have to be more mature, you have to bring people with (you) and you can’t be selfish,” Lee said. “I see that now. I see that every rep really matters. … That’s what I learned. And that’s my role now: to be a leader.

Going deep is complicated

Former ISU quarterback Brock Purdy was known for his accuracy on short and middle passes throughout his record-breaking career. But go deep? Not so much – except out of desperation. Will that change with Hunter Dekkers behind centre? Perhaps. Maybe not.

“Just because you have a strong arm doesn’t mean you’re good at throwing the ball downfield,” Cyclones offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “I think Hunter is certainly very capable of doing that. That’s one of the things, I think, that gives Hunter a chance, he has a strong arm. But there’s a lot more to playing quarterback than just being able to throw the ball down the field in terms of consistency and accuracy. … But it’s been really fun. Really eager to learn. is really very motivated and very focused on a daily basis.