Cyclones defense beginning to take shape

Iowa State begins spring practice on Tuesday, but coach Paul Rhoads has already made his spring depth chart public, giving a first look at how his young defense will look with just five starters returning.

Two sophomores, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, will man the outside linebacker positions to begin the spring. Klein, at 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, recorded 17 tackles as a freshman. Knott, a 6-foot-2, 237-pounder, had 23 tackles and will line up on the opposite side. Junior Jacob Lattimer will back up Klein and sophomore Kevin Hamlin will back up Knott.

In the middle, juco transfer Matt Tau’fo’ou will begin his senior spring as a starter after transferring from the College of San Mateo (Calif.) before his junior year. Tau'fo'ou didn't play in his first season, but was a juco All-American in 2008 and Rhoads singled him out as someone he wanted to check on in the spring. The pre-spring depth chart says Tau'fo'ou will have plenty of responsibility and reps when practice begins Tuesday.

Rhoads mentioned last week he was excited to get a look at juco transfer Anthony Young, a cornerback from Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif., but Young will begin the spring as a backup at right cornerback to returning starter junior Leonard Johnson, a Freshman All-American who made 64 tackles and picked off two passes as a sophomore last season.

The Cyclones offense, of course, is still headlined by a pair of returning seniors, Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson, at quarterback and running back, respectively.

Arnaud passed for 2,015 yards as a junior and scored 22 touchdowns. Robinson rushed for 1,195 yards, third-most in the Big 12, had six 100-yard games and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention.