By Rob Gray
AMES — Consider the grinding complete.
Iowa State’s game week depth chart entered the internet ether Monday, and there’s one redshirt freshman that stands alone atop a defensive position group.
That’s former Iowa City West star Charlie Rogers, who successfully defended his hold on a No. 1 left cornerback spot after being embroiled in a tense fall camp race that seemed too close to call.
“It’s tough, man,” entrenched starter at strong safety Deon Broomfield said about that battle late last week. “It’s competitive.”
“You could throw any one of those guys in right now and they’d be ready to play,” Broomfield added.
A handful of non-changes and changes — some eyebrow-raising, others anticipated — dotted the Cyclones’ two-deeps in advance of Saturday’s 7 p.m. season opener against Northern Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium.
*Two weeks after switching from defensive end to defensive tackle, David Irving’s ascended to the top.
The 6-7, 272-pound junior obviously executed the switch with aplomb, thus setting himself up for his first career start at a seemingly unlikely place.
“David has probably exceeded expectations in making that transition,” Rhoads said. “Some things you don’t see coming. Here’s a guy, at his height and range, playing on the edge and covering that ground — you think it’s where he belongs. But when he got inside, he was a natural; using his hands, quickness off the ball, the ability to be able to control his gap yet beat blockers and get to a second gap.”
Playing behind him can be a challenge, linebacker Jeremiah George said.
“I have to tell him to get down a little bit more because I can’t see what’s going on in front of me,” George said, mostly in jest.
That cuts both ways.
“His arms are so long that if he can just put one of them up, he can disrupt a pass just by being in a passing lane,” George said.
*Sophomore Jamison Lalk rose to No. 1 at one guard position, dropping ultra-strong but often-injured Ethan Tuftee to No. 2.
Daniel Burton, a redshirt freshman like Rogers, is slated to start at the other guard spot.
And there’s an asterisk involved in all of the above.
“Ethan missed some days with a charley horse above his knee and didn’t get the practice opportunities to beat those guys out coming off a spring when he missed a handful of practices,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads, whose team seeks a third straight win over the dangerous Panthers. “I expect all three will play.”
*The race for No. 1 at the place-kicking position continues for returning starter Edwin Arceo and redshirt freshman Cole Netten.
“It will extend to game day,” Rhoads said. “Just when you think you start to have an answer in a situation like that, somebody drops off in their performance. I want to feel great about who it is I put out there and the reason I made that decision, so, yeah, she’s going to keep going, that battle, the rest of the week.”
Rogers isn’t completely out of the woods and into the “Smoke on the Water”-filled tunnel as a certified starter just yet, either.
Regardless, he’ll see the field — which is more than he could say last season.
“I’m excited,” Rogers said late last week. “I don’t really know what to say, that’s how excited I am.”
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