Breaking down the Iowa State football team: Running Backs

Iowa State freshman David Montgomery breaks free for a big gain in the first half against West Virginia.

Aaron Marner

Iowa State’s running back situation was, at times, tumultuous last year. Mike Warren entered the season as a preseason first team All-Big 12 selection and figured to get the vast majority of the carries.

But issues with ball control hurt Warren. True freshman David Montgomery emerged as the No. 1 running back during the season.

Both Warren and Montgomery will get carries in 2017, with Montgomery currently in position to get the majority.

Slash and Dash

Montgomery and fellow sophomore running back Kene Nwangwu call themselves “Slash and Dash.” With Nwangwu — Dash — sidelined for spring and summer workouts with an achilles injury, his status for 2017 is still up in the air.

Nwangwu’s status as an every down back was uncertain anyway. He got limited touches on offense as a true freshman and instead emerged as a dangerous kick returner.

With Nwangwu questionable for the season, Montgomery is the young back with expectations.

Montgomery averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a freshman, gaining a total of 563 yards on 109 carries. His 563 rushing yards was a team-high.

Thanks to a talented group of receivers and a quarterback who isn’t afraid to take risks, Montgomery and the rest of the running backs should have plenty of room to run.

Warren’s new role

Mike Warren was one of the most electrifying freshmen in the nation in 2015. Multiple publications named him to the first team freshman All-American roster and he was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

Now, two seasons later, Warren enters 2017 as a backup.

Warren will still get carries, though. How many carries he receives per game depends largely on how Montgomery and Joel Lanning are utilized. If Lanning plays occasionally on the offensive side of the ball along with playing linebacker, Warren might not see as many touches.

If, however, Tom Manning’s 2017 offense features a more traditional running system with the running backs taking the majority of the carries, Warren could see more playing time when Montgomery needs a breather.

No depth

Assuming Nwangwu is limited in 2017, Iowa State doesn’t have a lot of experience after Warren and Montgomery.

The likely next guys in line are Ethan Staskewicz and Sheldon Croney Jr.

Staskewicz and Croney Jr. are in their second and third years as Cyclones, respectively. Neither has played in a regular season college football game before.

That lack of experience in the back end of the depth chart is why Warren will be important in 2017. Having a veteran running back with over 2,000 career all-purpose yards and eight rushing touchdowns to his name is a huge benefit for a young running back corps.

Nwangwu would add another dimension to the Cyclone offense, but his biggest impact if he is able to play in 2017 is probably in the return game.