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The NCAA's new low blocking rule had the Hawkeyes' 20th-year coach riled up on Cy-Hawk week. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Before he ascended onto the national stage, Iowa State running back David Montgomery first had to break through. Last season's performance versus Iowa certainly helped.

A year later, ahead of Cy-Hawk 2018, Montgomery is a center focus.

"I told our guys, I don’t know if we’ll see a better back this season," Kirk Ferentz said at Tuesday's media availability. "We’re going to see good players in our conference, but he’s as good a back as we’re going to face anywhere in the country.

"He’s a tough competitor."

Montgomery accounted for 165 total yards — 112 rushing, 53 receiving — and a touchdown in Iowa State’s 44-41 loss to the Hawkeyes last season. It was the first of his six 100-yard rushing games in 2017.

Ferentz was asked a plethora of Cy-Hawk questions Tuesday. Among his answers were that the 2016 game — a 42-3 Iowa win in Kinnick Stadium — was “worth nothing” in terms of breaking down the Cyclones. The improvement, Ferentz said, has been night and day since.

"Ever since then, they've played excellent football,” he said.  

MORE: Cy-Hawk offers Iowa defense a shot at redemption after 2017 shootout

Taking a leave

Ferentz said redshirt freshman running back Kyshaun Bryan is “taking a leave” and isn’t currently with the team. Bryan wasn’t among the 110 Hawkeyes on Iowa’s fall camp roster.

“We’re going to bring him back the bye week, circle back and see where he’s at and see if he’s more ready to practice,” Ferentz said.

CY-HAWK: Injured Iowa RB may not play; Ferentz bashes blocking rule

'Trying so hard that he hurt himself'

Amani Jones gained a reputation as a high-octane player with tons of energy, but Ferentz said those traits were part of what hurt the middle linebacker against Northern Illinois.

Jones was benched early in favor of Jack Hockaday, who's listed as the starter for Saturday’s Cy-Hawk game. Ferentz said Jones just needs to “calm down a little bit.”

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"I’m not going to say it was predictable what happened," Ferentz said, "but I think what happened is consistent with him. It’s the reasons we like him so much. He wants to make every play and get to the ball, and you can’t always do that.

"Sometimes, you just have to play your position. I think that he was just trying so hard that he hurt himself.”  

LEISTIKOW: Iowa seniors relish chance to go 4-for-4 against Iowa State

Injury update

Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin left the Northern Illinois game with an ankle injury, and Ferentz said he — along with a number of guys — are “a bit dicey.”

“He’s doing OK,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got a couple guys who are nicked up. … Right now, we’ll see where it goes and hopefully, we’ll know by the end of the week where we’re at.”

Kelly-Martin rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 16 carries against Northern Illinois. If he can’t go or is limited, expect Toren Young and Mehki Sargent.

Captains

Ferentz announced that Parker Hesse, Nate Stanley, Brady Ross and Keegan Render are Saturday’s captains.

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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