ISU running back position thin, inexperienced


Tyler Brown poses at football media day. Brown is the most experienced running back on the ISU football team with only 24 carries last season. 

Luke Manderfeld

In an ISU offense that has high hopes for the 2015-16 season, the running back position is the only skill position that has some serious concerns.

Iowa State ranked 123rd last season in the NCAA with 1,489 rushing yards and faces the loss of last season’s starter Aaron Wimberly. The expected starter, redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown, has only taken 24 carries in his college career and is the only running back on the team to have any carries for the Cyclones.

Despite criticism for his lack of experience, Brown doesn’t feel like it will deter him in the upcoming season. In fact, it gives him motivation.

“I love it,” Brown said. “There isn’t really any other way that I would have it. I always play better with a chip on my shoulder and this is something to prove. That’s the best feeling you can have, when you prove someone else wrong and prove yourself right.”

Rhoads addressed the concerns in his introductory speech at the ISU Football Media Day on Thursday, calling the position “thin.” He does have concerns about the group going into the season.

“[The thinness] concerns me because Tyler Brown is the veteran and he has 24 carries in his career,” Rhoads said. “It’s thin, it’s inexperienced.”

The positon took multiple hits before fall camp even started. The setbacks began with Iowa State’s third-leading rusher last season, DeVondrick Nealy, being dismissed from the team in February. It continued with Martinez Syria, who ran for 47 yards on 20 carries in 2014, leaving the team in June for violating team policies.

Rhoads announced yet another setback as three-star recruit Sheldon Croney Jr. had his second surgery to repair his right hand that will take him out of the lineup for the entire season. Croney Jr. shot himself in the hand in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., in May.

But the Cyclones still have some answers to help the ground game. Backing up Brown will be redshirt freshman Mike Warren and true freshman Joshua Thomas. Rhoads said Thomas is the lone true freshman who is sure to see playing time this season.

“My goals are to get on the field as a freshman and contribute as a freshman,” Thomas said. “I just want to say in a game that I helped win that game.”

Thomas, who considers himself a power running back, said that he and Warren, who relies on speed, will create an interesting contrast in the immediate and long-term future.

“It’ll be a good duo,” Thomas said. “For people to prepare for us, you really have a speed back, you have a power back. Also [Warren] has a little power behind him, and I have a little speed behind me, so it’ll be a good duo to look forward to.”

All three of the running backs said their role in the offense won’t be as significant because of the strong passing game. Instead, the team will likely rely on the ground game in situational spots. Warren said he thinks the running back core will be used mostly in short-yardage and goal-line positions.

“If we need some tough yards, we can rely on the running backs,” Warren said.

Although they may be used sparingly and have little to no experience, the running backs on Iowa State’s pass-first offense feel like they will have something to prove.

“Yeah, it definitely adds fuel to the fire and gets everyone going and gets the wheels turning,” Brown said of the criticism. “We are ready to show everybody that the running back core hasn’t missed a beat.”