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Iowa State Football Position Previews: Running Backs

You have one good RB? We will raise you two!

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NCAA Football: San Jose State at Iowa State
This beast of a man looks to continue his success as a sophomore
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Today we talk about the one of the deepest and most talented position groups on this roster –running backs!


Coming back from a freshman season where he got better and better as season went along, David Montgomery is number one on the depth chart. He gobbled up the majority of the carries in the latter half of the season, earning all 579 yards he gained, and culminating with a 169-yard performance against Kansas. Montgomery has also been praised by the staff as a fantastic pass-catcher, and would line up as a starting receiver if he wasn’t already in the backfield.

What’s better than having one good running back? How about having two.

Mike Warren looks to rebound from a sophomore season where he was dinged with injuries, and was unable to stay on the field consistently. That was night and day difference from his freshman year, in which Warren was the bell-cow back with over 1,300 rushing yards and garnering multiple freshmen accolades.

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports


Iowa State has quite possibly one of the best backup running backs in the Big 12 Conference, and another one that is gaining quite a bit of media attention. Johnnie Lang’s story was chronicled in this Des Moines Register article last week, and it appears the 5-foot-8 speedster is a front-runner for the starting kick return job. Lang, a late addition to the team, fought off reports of a troubled past and academic issues, but after the dust settled he landed in Ames. Running backs coach Lou Ayeni is glad to add another horse to his already competitive stable.

The man Lang is replacing in that spot is none other than Kene Nwangwu, another young running back with blazing speed, whom missed most of the offseason with a torn Achilles injury. Nwangwu’s availability for the 2017 season is unknown at this point, and it appears he could redshirt.


The Cyclones have quite a few question marks for this upcoming season – most notably the offensive line. Tom Manning’s men up front bring back only one starter (Julian Good-Jones), and he moves from tackle to center. The studs running through those holes have no question marks, and are quite honestly one of the deepest and talented groups that ISU has had in a long time.

Montgomery has fantastic vision for a young runner, while Warren is more of a one-cut back. Both are solid in pass protection, but Montgomery has the upper hand at pass catching. The good thing is, in a Campbell led-offense, you know the tempo and offensive production will start and end with the ball in the hands of the running backs. He wants to control the game on the ground.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas
Hopefully we see Mack-sized truck holes like this one for #32!
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

There will be plenty of carries to go around for this bunch, and hopefully plenty of opportunities to get the exciting Johnnie Lang in the open field. I see a solid season for both Montgomery and Warren, as they will complement each other nicely. There will be some games where one outshines the other, but it will it be fun to watch both for the next two years!

How they Stack up in Big 12

Gone to the NFL are two of the Oklahoma Sooners’ stalwarts from a year ago, as well as a man named Shock from Baylor. Coming back are 2nd team all-conference selections Justice Hill and Justin Crawford. Hill plays in a spread-attack at Oklahoma State, while Crawford plays in more of a balanced approach at West Virginia. Both have good speed and will be playing for teams who will put up a ton of points.

A fresh new face will wear burnt orange this year too, as league-leading rusher D’Onta Foreman is playing on Sundays. Currently, the battles for carries at Texas is between Kyle Porter and Chris Warren III. Keep an eye out for the ‘Horns back, as Tom Herman led-offenses tend to favor the running attack.

The two-headed monster of Montgomery and Warren stack up against just about any 1-2 punch in the league, and are most definitely in the top half of running backs in the Big 12. There’s no doubt the talent is there, but it all comes down to where the offensive line will take them.