Notebook: Freshmen stepping up, Mike Warren ready to play, and more


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

ISU running back Mike Warren is tackled ISU defensive back Nigel Tribune misses a tackle during the game against Kansas State Oct. 29. The Cyclones would go on to fall to the Wildcats 31-26, making it their first homecoming loss since 2013. 

Aaron Marner

Running backs coach Lou Ayeni and tight ends coach Alex Golesh spoke to the media Thursday, along with running backs David Montgomery and Mike Warren. Here are some of the biggest takeaways.

Freshman running backs leading the charge

Two of Iowa State’s most dynamic freshmen in 2016 played the same position, and both are looking for increased roles in the future.

David Montgomery led Iowa State in rushing yards as a freshman, going for 563 yards and two touchdowns. It was a big role for a true freshman, but Montgomery said he was ready.

“I felt like if I came up here and worked hard and worked my tail off, I would get that opportunity,” Montgomery said.

He emerged as the No. 1 rushing option for Iowa State as Warren and Kene Nwangwu battled for carries as well.

Nwangwu suffered an Achilles injury and will miss the entirety of spring workouts, but Iowa State hopes to have him back by the start of next season.

“That’s my guy,” Montgomery said. “Slash and dash. Me and Kene do everything together. When he had his surgery I was there … me and Kene are pretty close, that’s my brother.”

Montgomery said all three running backs get along great. The competition in practice is to push each other to get better, not just to earn playing time over one another.

“Mike’s great,” Montgomery said. “He helped me a whole lot.

“He really pushed confidence into me … now, he’s pushing me the same way. He’s always been a great player, a great team player to me.”

Warren focused on getting back on the field

Warren was one of the best freshman running backs in the nation in 2015 and was named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Then, in 2016, he saw fewer carries and lost playing time to Montgomery.

With two years left to make an impact, Warren is focused on helping the team however he can.

While some players in his situation may have transferred, Warren said that was never an option for him.

“You have to finish what you start,” Warren said. “That’s always one thing I’ve prided myself on.”

The 2016 season didn’t go how he wanted, Warren said, but he said adversity brings out the best in people.

Warren said he and Montgomery will push each other every day in practice this spring.

“You just have to go out there and keep getting better,” Warren said. “You can’t let the depth chart affect how you practice.”

Ayeni praised Warren for his work ethic.

“Since he’s come back this January, he’s really, really worked hard, had a great attitude and mindset about everything and really embraced the situation as a challenge,” Ayeni said. “And he’s just rising to the challenge.”

Ayeni said he hopes the young guys on the team will learn from Warren.

“It shows those young guys, if you work hard, good things happen,” Ayeni said.

Chase Allen ready to emerge

Golesh said freshman Chase Allen will be a big part of the offense next year.

Allen, who missed the season due to illness and a car crash, used the 2016 season to redshirt and get healthy.

“He’s a big, long, smart, athletic kid,” Golesh said. “I think mentally he was ready [to play last year.]

“You’d rather have him ready to go physically and mentally rather than just mentally.”

Allen’s athleticism will be a huge weapon for the Cyclones, who haven’t had much of a receiving threat at tight end since E.J. Bibbs graduated after the 2014 season.

“We could be a little bit different,” Golesh said. “He can do so many different things. He can play out in space. He’s just a big, athletic, raw kid.

“We’re starting to look like what we want to look like.”