Sheldon Croney Jr was the lone back to graduate from ISU following the 2019 season. After starting last season near the top of the depth chart Croney’s production fell dramatically as the season progressed. Breece Hall’s emergence pushed the veteran RB out the door, as Croney’s 13 carries for 56 yards in week one would be his best performance of the season. He went on to record 17 carries for 40 yards and six catches for 37 yards the rest of the season.
Croney’s 79 carries for 284 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and 25 catches for 182 yards is production that the Cyclones should have no serious trouble replacing.
Iowa State will have no new scholarship running backs for 2020, but they will have three preferred walk-ons that are expected to contribute in the running back room.
Blaze Doxzon is 5’9” 190 pounds from Omaha, Nebraska. As a senior in high school he played on both sides of the ball and rushed for 357 yards while recording 224 receiving yards. He also had 18 tackles, an interception and fumble recovery
Cale Anthony a Pleasantville, Iowa native will add depth to the RB room. Anthony was a great athlete in high school, competing in track, wrestling and of course football.
Atlantic, Iowa high school standout, Tyler Moen closes out the Cyclones RB, PWO class. Moen recorded 523 yards on 31 carries with 5 TD’s in one single game in his senior season which ranks as the second most yards in a single game in Iowa high school history.
Moen, Doxzon, and Anthony should provide Iowa State some much needed depth in the running back room.
Leader of the Pack
Breece Hall broke out in 2019 asserting himself as one of the best running backs in the country let-alone the Big 12. Coming into last season Matt Campbell had a very open competition for the starting role. After no back separated themselves from the pack heading into the season, the Cyclones began 2019 with a running back by committee approach.
In week one, a combination of Johnnie Lang, Sheldon Croney Jr., Breece Hall and Kene Nwangwu saw work. The committee approach would continue until, Breece Hall got his first start against West Virginia in week six. He would take full advantage of the opportunity as he ran the ball 26 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns. The only other running back to receive work in the game was Johnnie Lang who had four carries for 11 yards. This seemed to be the moment where Campbell found his “all-around” back.
Breece Hall’s breakout party continued for the rest of the season. He averaged 20.2 carries and 97.2 rushing yards a game as well as six touchdowns through the last seven games of the season. Hall developed as a receiver the whole season as well. He averaged 3.1 receptions, and 35.2 yards, while also reeling in one touchdown through the last seven games. It seemed that Johnnie Lang was the clear number-two in the second half of the season, but his role was very small, not amassing two carries once through the last seven games of the season. Breece ended the season with 186 carries, for 897 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground along with 23 catches for 252 receiving yards and one touchdowns through the air.
Hall enters the 2020 season with great expectations. He was snubbed from the preseason All-Big 12 team behind Kansas’ Pooka Williams Jr. and Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard. With a monster sophomore season, Hall could work his way up the Iowa State record books asserting himself as another all-time great Cyclone running back.
Breece Hall will obviously begin the season on top of Iowa State’s depth chart and he will likely be the feature back all season. Matt Campbell has had only one season in his four year tenure at Iowa State where you could argue there was a clear running back by committee approach for the whole season. In 2016, Mike Warren and David Montgomery split carries the whole season–as they both finished with around 500 yards on the ground for the season. Therefore, I would imagine Hall will get the bulk of the work in 2020.
As for the depth behind Hall, Iowa State still does have plenty of talent. Junior, Johnnie Lang has shown to have the ability to be a serious playmaker. I would expect Lang to at least begin the season as the number two. Senior, Kene Nwangwu worked as the kick returner for the majority of last season and I would expect him to continue in that role for 2020. Freshman, Jirehl Brock’s redshirt was preserved last season, and he should also have an opportunity to get in the rotation.
Brock’s redshirt being used does mean that Campbell and his staff saw enough in him to want to keep a year of his eligibility. It was reported that Campbell was impressed with Brock’s practice reps through the latter part of the season and into the 2020 off-season. Jirehl did come in as a higher recruit than Hall, so I could see a scenario where we could see an expanded role for him next season.
Even though Breece Hall will likely have control over the majority of the touches in 2020, there will still be plenty of other play makers in the Cyclone backfield.
*Junior, Rory Walling is also listed as a running back, although he contributes predominantly on special teams.
Projected 2020 depth chart:
- Breece Hall
- Jirehl Brock
- Johnnie Lang
- Kene Nwangwu
- Rory Walling
- Tyler Moen
- Blaze Doxzon
- Cale Anthony