We haven’t heard these words since the days of Troy Davis, nearly 22 years ago:
Iowa State has the “Best Running Back in the Country.”
That running back goes by the name of David Montgomery, and returns after a 1000-yard season, as the third-leading rusher in the Big 12 and with expectations as big as a high school senior on prom night.
The Cyclones have a thoroughbred in #32, but the stable behind him is unknown.
Unless you call Joel Lanning a running back, the Cyclones return all ball-carriers from a year ago.
Déjà vu. The same running backs on the roster from last year all return for 2018. The only ones that were unable to show much of anything in 2017 were two speedsters – Kene Nwangwu and Johnnie Lang. Both redshirted a year ago, and are lightning in a bottle on the field, who possess the type of speed that ISU hasn’t seen in decades.
Leader of the Pack:
David Montgomery is the workhorse at the top, and is a sure fire starter in game one. The junior from Ohio carried the ball 258 times, which accounted for 73% of the backfield carries in 2017. He graded out as the third-best running back and forced an absurd 109 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
He is being touted as a pre-season All Big-12 first-teamer, and widely recognized as a dark horse first-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Montgomery is the real deal.
Behind Montgomery on the depth chart is a four-way tie with Sheldon Croney, Nwangwu, Lang and Mike Warren. Croney stepped up admirably in the wake of a late-season Montgomery injury, and averaged over 5.1 yards per carry.
But the dark horses are those two speedsters Lang and Nwangwu. Campbell loves to share the carries amongst running backs, and he will line up both in the slot, put them in motion on jet sweeps, and utilize both on the edge.
This position group starts and ends with David Montgomery. He runs harder than a freight train, and still possesses the speed to break the long one. He is ultra-efficient at pass-blocking, and will be a force as a receiver out of the backfield.
In other words – sit back and grab the popcorn every time #32 gets the ball.
Behind him is a mixed bag, but I foresee Croney as the true backup, along with Mike Warren in short-yardage situations. Lang and Nwangwu will share the duties as two exciting scat-backs with game-breaking speed.