AMES — Collin Bevins stubbed his toe, literally, on his path to contributing to the 2013 defense at Iowa State University.
But his coaches say a minor injury suffered near the end of spring camp does nothing to diminish their intention of using the redshirt freshman from Creston on a regular basis next fall.
Bevins, 6-5 and up to 280 pounds now as a defensive tackle candidate for the Cyclones, was having a stellar spring practice when he suffered a foot injury Thursday during the 14th of 15 practice sessions leading up to Saturday’s spring game.
Therefore, he played only four downs before leaving the game and spending the rest of the day sidelined with the training staff. It was a frustrating end to a satisfying spring.
“Collin started the first two weeks of spring ball running with the first-team defense,” said Shane Burnham, Cyclone defensive line coach. “He barely played Saturday, though. He hurt a foot. It’s nothing that will be a detriment in the fall. He just got nicked up last week. He was having a really good spring.”
For Bevins, former Creston/O-M all-state defensive end and Western Iowa Athlete of the Year by the Omaha World-Herald, it was frustrating to be limited on the payoff for all that spring work — performing in front of a crowd at Jack Trice Stadium.
“I wasn’t able to practice Friday,” Bevins said. “They did an X-ray before the game, and nothing was broken. It’s like a bad turf toe. I was looking forward to the game.”
Big No. 18 — his number in high school except for the year he moved to offensive tackle and wore 55 — was trying to mask the injury and continue through the week, until it was detected by coaches.
“He’s a tough guy,” Burnham said. “He didn’t want to tell anybody he was hurt. But he just couldn’t run.”
In the mix
Nonetheless, after the game, speaking with reporters, head coach Paul Rhoads mentioned Bevins along with several other newcomers as players being counted on to step in for graduated seniors from the interior defensive line.
“Depth will be provided by a trio of freshmen — Collin Bevins, Devlyn Cousin and Pierre Aka,” Rhoads said. “Our staff is excited about the potential and growth of these young men. Austin Krick (junior) has also put himself in a position of playing time this season.”
Ryan McKim, offensive line graduate assistant from Creston, concurs that Bevins has made an impression during his brief time on campus.
“We lost our two senior tackles,” McKim said, “but we have a pretty good group of athletic body types at tackle, and Collin is obviously one of those. He’s a big, lean, strong guy. He has a bright future.”
Junior Brandon Jensen (6-5, 301) and senior Walter Woods III (6-0, 318) are running first at defensive tackle and nose guard, respectively. Jensen, an Ankeny native who has played in every game over the last two seasons, moved from noseguard to fill a void.
Graduation losses included Jake McDonough, All-Big 12 tackle hoping to land with an NFL team this week.
“We only have two guys back from the defensive interior who have played in a game,” Burnham said. “We have a bunch of guys like Collin that we’re counting on to be ready to be on the field next fall.”
About midway through his redshirt season, Bevins was asked to move from end to tackle. Just a year ago he was running the 200 meter dash and shuttle hurdle relay for the Panthers at 230 pounds. Now, he was packing on the pounds through ISU’s intensive strength program and learning a new position.
It’s Bevins’ athleticism — including a heavyweight wrestling championship for the Panthers — that intrigued the Cyclone coaching staff in making the move. The Big 12 is full of spread offenses featuring mobile quarterbacks and quick action. Agility is a valued asset, even inside the line of scrimmage.
“In our 4-3 defense,” Burnham said, “in the Big 12 we’re trying to find people on the interior who can run a little bit. We find a big defensive end body type like Collin, and hope as they grow and add weight to that frame, they can maintain some of that athletic ability.
“We knew Collin brings that athleticism we needed. We just hoped in time he would have enough lead in his pencil to put him inside,” Burnham said.
Fighting off double-teams against 300-pound offensive linemen and making the proper read to stop a play was a skill Bevins never had to master on the edge. It’s been a learning process.
“Coach Burnham wants me around 285 or 290 to hold my own inside,” Bevins said. “I’m starting to gain confidence in recognizing blocks and how they unfold, how to play against different pressures. All that stuff I never had to pay attention to before. You don’t get double-teamed much at defensive end. We graduated six from our (defensive) line last year, four from the interior. So coach said I could help at the three technique (tackle).”
Burnham likens Bevins to a young McDonough, who grew and developed into a Big 12 force inside. McDonough, an Urbandale native, was a first-team selection by the Big 12 coaches after making 31 tackles, a pair of sacks and breaking up three passes.
McDonough earned honorable mention honors on the AP All-America team. He also earned honorable mention from the league’s coaches for defensive lineman of the year. He came into the ISU program at 6-5 and 241 pounds, simliar to Bevins, and was 280 pounds as an all-conference senior.
“Collin has long levers — those arms — that remind me of a young McDonough at the same age,” Burnham said. “He’s natural with his hands. I don’t know if it’s his wrestling background or what, but he understands getting his hands on people and reading leverage. When he gets his hands on people, with good technique, they can’t get to him.
“Those are things you just can’t coach, getting off a block like that,” Burnham continued. “McDonough was an All-Big 12 noseguard, and Collin is more athletic at the same stage. If he puts in the same work, his future in football has no limits.”
Whether he’s the listed starter or not, Bevins will be working throughout the summer to be prepared to play.
“We rotate guys pretty often,” Bevins said. “With the pace of offenses we see in the Big 12, the most we go is about six plays at a time, so we’re fresh inside. You can’t afford to get tired and lose that momentum.”
For now, the players have two weeks off from football activities to prepare for finals. He’ll take a summer class and work out every day with teammates.
In the fall, the Bevins family is gearing up for a busy season. Older brother Jared will play his senior season at Simpson College. He joined his parents in Ames Saturday to watch Collin.
“I talked to my parents and I think they’re probably hoping the schedules work out, so that maybe when we’re on the road, Simpson is playing at home, that kind of thing,” Collin said.