Peterson: Matt Campbell's plan for David Montgomery this fall? Easy, feed him the ball.
AMES, Ia. — Someone asked about David Montgomery’s durability.
Someone wondered if he could handle another 300 or so touches — rushes and receptions — of the football. Someone wondered if Iowa State’s most recent 1,000-yard rusher might be worn down toward the end of the 13-game season of 2017.
“If anybody told David that he wore down — he’d be upset, so we won’t do that,” Matt Campbell responded.
It was a logical question, given Iowa State’s solid depth at the position. It was reasonable for someone to wonder, considering Johnnie Lang needs to play and so does Kene Nwangwu and Sheldon Croney ... and don’t forget about former 1,000-yard rusher Mike Warren.
They’ll get turns, but in the end, Montgomery will rush another 260 or so times, he’ll catch 40 or so passes, and he’ll add to last season’s 1,146 rushing yards with another 1,100 or so.
Saying you’re planning to spread the ball around a smidge is one thing. Actually doing it, when one of your guys is among the top returning running backs in the country?
That'd probably be more stupid than brave.
If Montgomery doesn’t have another 60-plus percent of the team’s carries, I’ll be surprised — especially given the front-loading of the schedule.
“I know there’s only one football, but the reality of it is those guys are earning the right to play as well,” Campbell told us Tuesday. “Instead of saying, 'Man, we’re trying to save David' — we’ve got some good options, and how can we continue to put those guys in the best position to help our team be successful?”
By playing them occasionally, because if anything, Montgomery has proven he’s durable. There’s no room to tinker much when the first seven games include Iowa, Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and, oh yeah:
Saturday opponent South Dakota State, the No. 3-ranked FCS team in the land.
“David’s been running hard,” receiver Hakeem Butler said Tuesday. “The other guys have, too.”
PREVIOUSLY:Randy Peterson's 2018 roster analysis
Croney rushed 31 times in 2017 while playing a valued late-season role. Warren carried 34 times, Lang, four before getting hurt — and Nwangwu redshirted during a lengthy injury rehab.
The running attack is a big part of what Iowa State does, regardless how good quarterback Kyle Kempt and his trusted band of receivers are. And when you’ve got the best — you run with the best.
“Montgomery is as good as you will see in the country,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I've been impressed with him since his freshman year.”
Here’s guessing that Montgomery gets more than the 14 carries he had in last season’s opener against Northern Iowa ... and maybe five more than the 20 he had a season ago against Iowa ... and probably 10 more times than the nine rushes he had against Texas.
So in that respect, don’t be shocked if Montgomery gets another 258 in 2018.
And don’t be surprised when he gets another 1,000-plus yards, because he achieved it last season on just his 217th carry, which led to my question:
What does having a 1,000-yard rusher do for a program?
“We’ve got to be able to run the football,” Campbell said. “You have to have the ability to have a running game to reach your full potential.
“College football is still about running the football, playing great defense and being great on special teams.
“As hot and flashy as all these offenses can be at times, the best teams in the country that have chances to win championships — they all have the ability to run the ball.
“That’s something I think is important to any program that wants to be a championship-level program.”
Three of the four teams in last year’s College Football playoffs had 1,000-yard rushers, if that means anything.
But also know this:
Campbell said he doesn’t have a special wall full of plaques honoring 1,000-yard rushers. While it’s cool to say you’ve got a rusher like that — it’s usually about the bigger picture.
“Certainly at program like Iowa State, you’d love to be able to take a step — and whether you’re defining that by a 1,000-yard rusher or by consistency in the running game — I think those things are defined differently,” Campbell said.
“But being able to run the football and the overall rushing attack — I think is important to any program for sure.”
So don’t look for Montgomery’s load to be lightened, at least during the first half of the season. Iowa State needs all the David Montgomery it can get.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.