Breaking down Iowa State's running back depth behind David Montgomery
AMES, Ia. — Iowa State running backs coach Nate Scheelhaase has it good right now.
But Scheelhaase is just as excited about the depth of his running back room. There will be plenty of competition for that No. 2 spot behind Montgomery among redshirt sophomore Kene Nwangwu, redshirt junior Sheldon Croney Jr., redshirt senior Mike Warren and redshirt freshman Johnnie Lang.
Scheelhaase said it's still very early in fall camp, and he'll learn more how his running backs will shake out over the next couple weeks.
"We don't necessarily say, 'Hey, on this date we want to figure out this.' We let them practice and we’ll let their film do the talking," Scheelhaase said. "So, we’ll know how to use those guys. Those guys are all going to get used, they’re all going to get carries. That’s the positive."
Warren and Croney essentially split 65 carries in a back-up role last season.
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Iowa State's running backs coach broke down each of the five players vying for snaps:
On David Montgomery: "I think all the things that everybody saw for him last year are true. Can he make guys miss? Yes. Can he break tackles? Yes. Is he a tough, hard-nosed player that’s gritty and does a great job protecting the football? Yes, he’s all those things. Can he catch the ball out of the backfield? Yep. Can he split out? Yeah he can do that. And I think now, the great thing about him is he’s never satisfied with those things. He’s looking to perfect his craft and looking at the little details of what he can do better and how he can grow. And he is growing. What that growth will show up like and look like this season is exciting for all of us."
On Kene Nwangwu: "I like that he’s really, really fast. He’s physical. Kene’s physical — he’s not a fast track/football player. He’s a football player that runs physical with the football, which is obviously what you want to see. Obviously, he’s been used before on special teams and in the return game. We definitely think that could be an area where he could continue to help at. But on the field, with our base stuff, he can do it — which is good. That’s what you want to see. I think the question with him, even coming out of high school was, 'Can he be a back that can play first, second, third down?' And that’s what he’s continuing to prove."
On Mike Warren: "He’s a big, strong, fast kid. I think Mike is so much different than he was even three years ago, where he was more thin, just fast, trying to break 80-yarders. Now, he’s not only got that speed to break it 80 yards, but just to run through arm tackles. And that’s what we saw a lot of during the spring. He was running more physical. So, to see that physicality from him, that brings a whole new element to his game that can be really beneficial for us."
On Sheldon Croney Jr.: "Sheldon has been as consistent since the spring as any player on the roster. We always look for guys that are consistent, guys that are trustworthy, guys that when they're on the field they're going to do the right things. And that’s who he’s been. He’s a patient running back. He has really good vision. Sheldon is a tough player. There were a couple times this spring where the hamstring was a little bit sore, knee was a little bit banged up — and he battled. A tough, tough player."
On Johnnie Lang: "Johnnie is the last person you want to see in a phone booth. He’s tough to tackle. He’s lightning-quick. He’s already had a few times where he’s one-on-one with the safety and he would be a problem in the open field. You want to figure out a way to get him the ball in open space and allow him to just work on guys in space — work one-on-ones."
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.