Running backs, offense to make noise in 2012 season


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Running back James White rushes the ball around the Texas A&M opposition during the game on Saturday, Oct. 22. Whit rushed 16 times for a total of 60 yards and scored one touchdown for the Cyclones.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

Paul Rhoads sat down with a relieved smile and began the news conference with a joke. An hour earlier, he had released his decision on the starting quarterback. 

And that was the talk of the field for the entire off-season. Jantz or Barnett. Which one would it be?

On Tuesday morning, that question was answered, followed by the remembrance of the other 10 members on offense who would be filling those positions. Coming out of camp, Rhoads answered key questions that have been on the minds of Cyclone fans all summer long.

“We leave training camp healthy, which we’re very thankful for,” Rhoads said. “There were a couple of position battles that were notable, one of them — the quarterback position — where Steele Jantz has emerged the leader.”

“Another one is the kicking battle. That decision has not been made. Probably will go into game-week, even game-day.” So there’s that. The Cyclones have their quarterback and a last moment decision on kicker. 

Now, for the rest of the team. The Cyclones will come into the 2012 season with three running backs. Rhoads said that on Sept. 1, redshirt junior James White will be in the No. 1 slot. White led the Cyclones last season with 743 yards and eight touchdowns.

In the second slot will be powerhouse, Jeff Woody, who is most recognized for his barreling touchdown that topped Iowa State against No. 2 Oklahoma State last November.

Woody said the team is starting to get their mind set for the Tulsa game.

“What their defense does, what they do well and what they don’t do well — and obviously, the coaches are going to exploit those things,” Woody said. “As players, we’re going to look for tendencies in the other players.”

Woody also said there isn’t much a team will be able to defend against with the three-running back depth they have.

The third slot is a little different. Even though the depth chart does not show it, the spot will belong to junior, Shontrelle Johnson. Rhoads said Saturday that Johnson had a good camp, which is promising coming off a season-ending neck injury in 2011.

Rhoads said having the three-back rotation will highlight some players in certain areas, adding that Woody could very well be a situational running back this fall.

“Jeff’s really that guy,” Rhoads said. “He’s our short yardage, he’s our goal-line [and] he’s our run the clock out guy. … But we’re not afraid to play him at other times.”

A key idea coming from offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham was the idea of his running backs being able to make defenders miss tackles.

“The one thing you’ve seen throughout camp is their ability to make one guy miss,” Messingham said. “I give them a hard time sometimes when I say ‘You can’t block them all.’”

On Tuesday, Rhoads talked about the other positions on the offense and how they were filling out as camp came to a close.

“They’re catching a lot of balls, the receivers. And [the quarterbacks] are spreading it out amongst them,” Rhoads said, in reference to the wide receivers. “We’ve got more weapons there.”

The tight end position will most likely go to redshirt senior, Kurt Hammerschmidt, with a toss-up for second string tight end, according to the latest depth chart.

Rhoads said redshirt senior, Ricky Howard, was coming off a knee injury and performed well in training camp.

With the first game against Tulsa just under two weeks away, the final depth chart is in. Major questions were answered just in time and a few still linger until game time.

Until then, fans play the waiting game. 

Rhoads said Saturday he hopes to have all decisions made for the starting positions before game time on Sept. 1.