AMES — “How are you going to follow up your freshman year?”
Kamari Cotton-Moya is tired of being asked that question. He was the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year, but the redshirt sophomore isn’t thinking about last season anymore.
“That ain’t really in my eyes,” Cotton-Moya said after practice Thursday evening. “I’m just looking to become a better team, be a better leader, be a better teammate and just looking forward to what he have coming up September 5th.”
Cotton-Moya was ejected from the first game he played in an Iowa State uniform after being called for targeting against North Dakota State. It bothered him, but he moved on.
“Through my past, I can look over it, good or bad,” Cotton-Moya said. “I just look toward the future.”
Last year, he was considered the quarterback of the defense as a freshman. Defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist says he wasn’t fully caught up, but it was trial by fire that helped him excel.
This season, Cotton-Moya returns with a great deal of experience and the ability to be a breakout player in a secondary that on paper could be one of the best in the Big 12.
“He brings a calmness and a poise to what we’re doing,” Linguist said. “He allows everyone to play fast. When things move, and trade, and shift, you need a guy that knows what to communicate. A trained defender makes immediate and right decisions, and when you’ve got a guy back there that can make the check, make the call, see it before it happens, ‘Hey watch the drive, watch the slant.’ It brings a poise to the defense.”
Cotton-Moya knows he isn’t a finished product. He says coaches didn’t even start looking to him for leadership until last spring. It wasn’t long after before he suffered a neck injury in practice. He isn’t letting that hold him back any more than being a freshman running the back end of the defense.
“It is what it is, if I get hurt I’ve got a backup,” Cotton-Moya said. “I’m just going to keep playing aggressive and keep playing Cyclone football.”
*** The defensive players seem to have a pocket of confidence around them that hasn’t been seen in the past few years. I first noticed it with Devlyn Cousin and Pierre Aka on Tuesday but got the same vibe from Qujuan Floyd and Kamari Cotton-Moya on Thursday. It’s almost like they know something the fans and media don’t.
“We’ve got a group that’s hungry," Linguist said. "From the coaching staff to the front line to the new people that just got here, so we’re ready.”
*** Maurice Linguist talked a lot about a culture change that was needed for the ISU defense. Disruptive was a word that he used several times and he really stressed the importance of turnovers.
“We’re trying to develop that culture and that identity and that shared belief of pursuing the football, being disruptive at the point of attack and you see guys doing it. You’re seeing d-ends do it, d-tackles do it, line backers do it. You’ve got to have it in this league, you know. You can give up some yards sometimes and really be saved by a takeaway. Obviously nobody wants to give up the yards, but turnovers change games.”