NOTEBOOK: Johnson cleared to start season


Photo: Adam Ring/Iowa State Daily

Running back Shontrelle Johnson speaks with reporters as a part of football media day Thursday, Aug. 2, on the field of Jack Trice Stadium. The football team opens the season at home on Sept. 1 against Tulsa.

Jake Calhoun

Shontrelle Johnson pumped his fists when he heard the news.

The true junior running back for the ISU football team has been cleared to begin practicing at full speed, returning from a neck injury he sustained Oct. 1 last season against Texas.

“They told me the odds were 50-50,” Johnson said of his chance of ever being able to play again. “None of us really knew until those last results were all in, so he told me to work as though I have been cleared, and that’s what I’ve been doing all offseason.”

Johnson said he was already on track with where he wanted to be when he was cleared to play. The native from DeLand, Fla., rushed for 247 yards in four games started last season.

“Shontrelle’s the kind of guy that can take a 3-yard play 80 yards,” said running back Jeff Woody. “You never know when that’s going to hit and that’s so exciting to have that kind of pop in the backfield.”

During his news conference for Thursday’s ISU media day, coach Paul Rhoads said Johnson will be monitored in case any pain associated with the injury returns.

Johnson was the No. 1 running back for the first four games of last season but is nowhere to be found on the team’s preseason depth chart.

It has yet to be determined what Johnson’s involvement in the running back rotation will be quite yet, but he didn’t sound too against the idea of a three-back system with Woody and James White.

“The game’s changing,” Johnson said. “No team has one predominant running back, so if James can get in and get 18 yards, I can get in, Woody gets in on goal line situations, it’ll be better for the team. All of us can contribute in some kind of way.”

Maturity issues off-field stunt Irving’s development

Rhoads said one player who has not lived up to potential is defensive end David Irving.

The 6-foot-7-inch true sophomore went into spring ball as the starting left end but has since forfeited his spot to Willie Scott.

“He’s a great talent,” Rhoads said of Irving. “You don’t get many people that come through your program with that kind of height and ability to run and the length of that wingspan that reaches out and bats down passes.

“David has the opportunity to be a very good football player, but we’d like him to arrive sooner rather than later.”

Maturity issues have reportedly plagued Irving, having been one of two true freshmen (linebacker Jevohn Miller being the other) to get playing time last season.

“It’s a difference coming out of high school coming here, where you have a lot of people watching you, a lot of people counting on you,” Irving said. “I have not been making the smartest decisions, and I could have avoided a lot of things, but I’m learning as I go.”

According to court records, a search warrant was issued for Irving on April 27. The details of the warrant, however, are closed record and Irving has not been charged with anything.

The maturity issues have been something Irving’s teammates have taken notice of and addressed heading into this offseason.

“He’s gotten more mature this offseason; some of the players kind of got on him, and I think he’s trying to mature more,” said free safety Jacques Washington. “He has to develop because he has to play for us this year because he’s a heck of a talent and a big body at defensive end.”

Durbin’s homecoming serves as final year of eligibility

After finishing his undergrad at Wyoming, Ben Durbin is coming home.

With one season of eligibility remaining, the native of Gilbert, Iowa, will be playing defensive line for the ISU football team for his last hoorah.

“It was a tough decision because I had some great teammates out there,” Durbin said. “After talking with them and my family, I just decided it’s best for me to come home and get my master’s [degree] here.”

Durbin is currently listed as the No. 3 nose guard on the depth chart and will add depth to a defensive line unit that allowed 193.5 rushing yards per game while tallying just 17 sacks.

Durbin will also be sporting the No. 15 jersey — while permissible for defensive linemen, is uncommonly worn by players of the unit.

“It was actually given to me at Wyoming, and I just kept with it,” Durbin said.