AMES (AP) — Iowa State’s issues last season ran deeper than youth and injuries.
Coach Paul Rhoads has known for at least a year that Cyclones would need an immediate influx of talent in 2014, and he set about scouring the junior college ranks for players who could contribute right away.
The result of those efforts was a four-player haul of JUCO transfers that Rhoads announced on Wednesday. The list includes the nation’s leading junior college tackler, Jordan Harris, along with defensive lineman Gabe Luna, safety Devron Moore and 357-pound guard Wendell Taiese.
Iowa State’s four new players are enrolled in school and will be eligible to compete in spring workouts, according to Rhoads.
“All four of them will have an opportunity to come in here and compete for starting time and snaps immediately,” Rhoads said.
The Cyclones didn’t add an experienced quarterback because Rhoads is happy with sophomore Grant Rohach, junior Sam Richardson and the depth behind those them.
But it’s not surprise to see Iowa State add multiple junior college defensive players after allowing 36 points a game en route to a 3-9 finish.
Harris, who at 5-foot-11 at 233 pounds can play either middle or weakside linebacker, led all NJCAA players with 124 total tackles and 13.8 a game at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.
“Not only is he a gifted player, but he has all the attributes that I look for in a football player, especially at the linebacker position. Somebody that really studies the game...loves to play,” Rhoads said. “His personality really fits in with our program.”
Moore will also have a strong shot at opening fall camp atop the depth chart.
He turned down offers from the likes of Wisconsin, West Virginia, Utah, Texas Tech and others to play for the Cyclones, who lost both starting safeties in Deon Broomfield and Jacques Washington.
Moore had three interception returns for touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma A&M junior college.
“He’s a ball hawk,” Rhoads said.
Luna won’t turn 20 until April, but Rhoads compared him to starting end Cory Morrissey. Rhoads also has high expectations for Taiese, likening him to former Iowa State star and current Baltimore Ravens starter Kelechi Osemele.
“He was 357 pounds of best player available,” Rhoads said of Taiese. “He’s really light on his feet and really gets in the open field and runs extremely well for his size,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads didn’t have any updates on the openings at offensive coordinator or running backs coach, other than to say he hoped to have a new coordinator in place by the middle of next month.
The Cyclones will announce the rest of their 2014 recruiting class on Feb. 5.
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP