Trio Of Cyclones Trying To Rebuild Iowa State's Defensive Line

By Rob Gray, Reporter

Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham talks to defensive linemen Henry Simon (98) and Brandon Jensen (93) during a time out in the first half against West Virginaia at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Friday, November 23, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

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By Grant Burkhardt

AMES, Iowa — The fighter. The wrestler. The engineer.

Characters in a new sitcom?

No, just three pivotal pieces, as in Brandon Jensen (fighter), Collin Bevins (wrestler), and Pierre Aka (engineering major) poised to help Iowa State rebuild the interior of its defensive line.

Among the trio, only Jensen, a junior, has played.

The former Ankeny star totaled eight tackles last season for a defense that ranked 38th nationally in points allowed at 23.9 per game.

“What I love about (Jensen) is the attitude he plays with,” Cyclone defensive line coach Shane Burnham said. “He’d just as soon fight you as he would shed a block.”

Jensen is projected to start at nose guard and said his ornery approach comes from his coach.

“He wants us to work hard; he wants us to fight for everything,” said the 6-5, 301-pounder. “If they’re chipping us, we should chip them back because he doesn’t want (us) getting walked on. He wants you to be a fighter, and that’s what it takes down there. Otherwise, they’re just going to run all over you all day.”

Bevins, a state wrestling tournament runner-up his senior year of high school at Creston, and Aka, who’s studying aerospace engineering, are red-shirt freshmen.

Bevins entered spring camp as the No. 1 tackle, with junior Austin Krick (6-2, 277) and Aka (6-4, 273) on his heels.

“Collin, the other day he actually hip-tossed a guy, which was not a block escape I coach,” Burnham said.

“Usually we shed blocks. He hip-tossed the blocker. He fell back into his wrestling days.”

That’s not a bad thing, despite the occasionally unorthodox technique.

“There’s a work ethic that comes with that sport,” Burnham said.

Bevins expressed surprise at being a spring camp No. 1 and, regardless, will likely share time with Krick and Aka as Burnham tries to keep his group fresh.

Bevins spent his red-shirt year working at linebacker. He’s put on roughly 60 pounds in two years.

“I wasn’t really this body type when I first came in so once I put on the weight, got bigger, they said, ‘OK, it’s time to go inside,’” Bevins said.

Aka, of Indianapolis, spent some time at defensive end last season and is adjusting to the more constrained environment at tackle.

“Right now I’m just trying to play tough and get the technique down,” he said. “We’re not playing Texas this week or anything, so really just trying to get after each other.

“That’s all you can do in the spring, especially as a red-shirt freshman — just try to develop yourself.”

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