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Connectivity and improvement highlight focuses for Cyclone running back room

Jacob Rice
Running back Abu Sama III celebrates winning the Iowa State vs. Kansas State football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Sama scored 3 touchdowns for 276 total yards on Nov. 25, 2023 in Manhattan, KS.

The young Iowa State running back room is not focusing on who will be the starting tailback in August, but instead is planning to push each other and continue to bond during spring ball.

While some returners may have more memorable performances than others, no one in the running back room is heading into spring football with a selfish mindset.

Newly appointed running backs coach Tyler Roehl has gotten his players locked in for spring practices, with hard work and togetherness on their minds.

“The most connected units, the most connected teams are going to be the ones that are extremely successful,” Roehl said.

Returning sophomores Abu Sama III and Carson Hansen have bought into Roehl’s mentality and are using it to guide them to a successful offseason.

The North Dakota native’s explosive and energetic personality coincides with his leadership of the running backs, which gets his players ready to work.

“He brings a lot of energy which is what we love,” Sama said. “It wakes us up a lot.”

Along with Arlen Harris Jr., and newcomers Jaylon Jackson and Dylan Lee, the running back room has focused on creating a bond in the offseason and not letting egos get in the way.

“At the end of the day we’re family and we’re not going to beat each other up because someone maybe had a better day than someone else,” Hansen said.

Whether it has been on the field or off the field, the running backs have been traveling as a group. They have bonded over their religious beliefs and have attended services together, strengthening their bond even more off the field.

“We are all really close,” Sama said. “We’re always just staying together and checking up together.”

Even though they have grown close this offseason, a question mark at the starter is still at the forefront heading into the 2024 season. Sama and Hansen enter as the clear two favorites to take the starting role, and Roehl has seen a relentless effort from both to the job.

“[Sama and Hansen] don’t just want things handed to them, it is an unbelievable work ethic,” Roehl said.

Both Sama and Hansen have shown their respective skills on the field, with one rounding out the regular season with a bang.

Sama’s record-setting performance of 276 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State put the Iowa native on the map as one of the most explosive backs in the country.

But that does not mean Hansen is not in the talks of being the starter come September, especially with his ability to make plays with the ball in the receiving game.

“[Hansen] is such a good athlete,” Roehl said. “I think along with [Sama], someone that can be an all down back.”

Roehl’s idea of an all-down back is one who can do it all, whether that comes in the run game, lining up outside or pass protection.

While both Sama and Hansen showed flashes of Roehl’s values down the stretch of the regular season, they will each be expected to put those skills on display consistently, seeing as they have the most experience in Iowa State’s system.

While the decision of who will be the starting back will not come until way down the road, Roehl is focused on connectivity with his players and an agenda that everyone is on board with.

“What I see is a group that is pulling the rope in the same direction, they are working hard for each other not against each other,” Roehl said.

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Jacob Rice, Visual Editor
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