ISU looks to underclassmen for offensive boost

Corey Aldritt

Unfortunately for the Cyclones football team, this summer’s storms may have produced more touchdowns than the Cyclones’ offense did all of last season.

Iowa State only put the ball in the end zone 27 times, and they averaged a mere 18.2 points per game. Only seven teams in Division 1 football were less successful when it came to putting points on the board.

Sophomore running back Alexander Robinson and freshman receivers Sedrick Johnson and Darius Darks hope to bring some bounce back to the offense with their speed and athleticism.

“These are all young guys that are going to get thrown into the fire, but we feel really good about the strides they’ve made in three weeks,” said coach Gene Chizik.

After four solid games last year, it’s no surprise Robinson will be in the mix at running back this season. As for the young receivers, it is rare for true freshmen to see much playing time and make a large contribution to a team.

“I don’t want to use the word surprise, but there’s been some guys that have jumped off the page at the first three weeks of camp,” Chizik said. “It will be real interesting to see what they do when the lights come on.”

Robinson showed promise in four games last season where he was the feature back. In the last four games of the season Robinson rushed for 391 yards and scored six touchdowns.

Even though Robinson broke out at the end of the season, the running back position was up for grabs throughout fall camp between Robinson and senior Jason Scales.

“Alexander’s going to start the game for us, and Jason Scales is going to be able to step in there and split the duty with him,” Chizik said.

Chizik said Robinson is best at running to the outside, and that the inside power game will be in Scales’ hands.

“We’re going to run the ball over 30 times a game. I think that’s just the way it is. Whoever gets those carries will just depend on how the game unfolds,” Chizik said.

Robinson didn’t find out that he’d be starting the opener against South Dakota State until Monday. He said that regardless of who was starting he was already feeling excited and that he needed to show consistency.

Despite Iowa State’s rushing offense being ranked 95th in the country last year, coach Chizik said he still plans on running the ball at least 30 times a game.

“We had somewhat of an anemic running game at times last year, so we have to be much better,” Chizik said.

Robinson had a career high 29 carries that resulted in 127 yards in the Cyclones’ upset over Colorado last season.

Regarding his carries, Robinson said, “I have no limit threshold. Obviously that’s up to the coaches on how much they want to run the ball.”

No matter who is under center this year, they will have a couple of new targets to throw too. Freshmen Sedrick Johnson and Darius Darks cracked the two-deep depth chart after just three weeks with the team.

“DD [Darks] — he runs great routes — he’s a fast guy. He lines up in the slot for us and runs precise routes,” said quarterback Austen Arnaud. “He’s a real heady player for a freshman. He’s one of the better ones that I’ve seen since I’ve been around.”

Darks chose Iowa State over Michigan State and hails from Austin, Texas. He was also a quarterback in high school, throwing more than 800 yards and seven touchdowns in his senior season.

“DD is just like my little brother. We hang out and ever since he visited, me and him have been real cool,” said quarterback Phillip Bates.

In addition, Johnson came in as the one of the highest-touted recruits that the Cyclones have ever received. He choose Iowa State over Texas A&M, Florida, TCU, LSU, Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska.

“Sedrick is just an athletic freak. He needs to get a lot stronger so those corners can’t beat him up out there, but I think he’ll hold his own just fine on Thursday,” Bates said.

Johnson is from Troup, Texas, where he accumulated more than 1,600 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in his final two years of high school.

Darks and Johnson not only have to worry about their first few days of college, but also South Dakota’s defense.

“Sedrick is always a goofy guy and always laughing. They’re [Johnson and Darks] going to be out there and making a difference,” Arnaud said.