As a sophomore, DeVondrick Nealy averaged 4.5 yards per touch from scrimmage, which doesn't include his kickoff return for a touchdown.
As a junior this fall, Nealy looks to keep his number high, albeit in a different role. Once a pinch-hitter swinging too often for the fences, Nealy can be more selective, given an upswing in carries.
"Last season the emphasis was trying to make a big run every time I touched the ball," Nealy said Monday. "I don't have to do that now. When I see something, hit it, and hit it fast, when it opens up. But I don't have to rush and try to make something happen. Things will eventually happen, you just have to give them time to develop."
Antsy from the sideline as as many as four other running backs tried their hand as the Cyclones' lead back, Nealy eschewed assigned running lanes to bounce outside, in hopes of the home-run. The results, expectedly, varied. Some games it'd work — six carries, 48 yards against Oklahoma, and sometimes it wouldn't — five carries, 12 yards at Baylor.
Suddenly one of two known commodities in new coach Louis Ayeni's running backs room, Nealy must reel it in.
"I felt like every time I got the ball I had to do something amazing with it," the redshirt junior from Monticello, Fla., said. "But this year, just take your time, watch everything develop, give it time to develop.
"I play a bigger role now. This is what I've been waiting for."
In Aaron Wimberly and Nealy, Ayeni knows what he's got.
"Little dude can run," Ayeni said of Wimberly, who struggled to stay healthy in 2013 but gained 567 yards on 141 carries. "He's cerebral. … I really like his demeanor, I really like his toughness. I know we haven't put pads on but I can see he's a tough kid."
Also in the mix are Rob Standard, a redshirt junior who's waited his turn, and Tyler Brown, a redshirt freshman who's opened eyes with his quickness.
Both can serve as change-of-pace backs, though in different respects. Standard is a "pounder," per Ayeni, and might have a future as the short-yardage back, replacing Jeff Woody. Brown, meanwhile, is a burner.
Woody, Shontrelle Johnson and James White have graduated.
Rhoads Discusses Coe Dismissal
Promising defensive tackle Rodney Coe announced his dismissal from the ISU football program via Twitter on March 13, telling AllCyclones.com it was the result of "A lot of little things. Me being late to meetings, missing stuff."
Cyclones spokespersons confirmed Coe's dismissal but the program never sent a release, giving head coach Paul Rhoads the chance to comment publicly on Coe for the first time.
"Simple," Rhoads said Monday. "There are expectations and rules and policies within this program that are gonna be followed by one and all. And he just slipped up one too many times with those expectations and policies. That was the result."
Asked if Coe knew he was on thin ice, Rhoads said, "Yep."
Dagel Confirms His Home
At 6-foot-8 with a body like a power forward, rising junior Brock Dagel seemed like the no-brainer to start at left tackle for the Cyclones this fall. But with an offensive overhaul, including new line coach Brandon Blaney, you never know, especially as ISU's front five was asked to do some peculiar things — arm swings, tons and tons of pulling — last year in Chris Klenakis' styled offense, and that wasn't the best was for the 'Beefcakes' to display their talent.
Dagel said Monday he would serve as blindside protector for whoever wins the quarterback job.
"Left tackle, yep," he said. "Just went back to where I was natural before Coach K got here."
ISU is implementing a zone-blocking system, but the nuts and bolts of the offensive scheme remain somewhat vague, coordinator Mark Mangino keeping things vanilla with the first open practice. So what's new along the front line?
"You'd see us swinging our arms into blocks — we're not gonna do that anymore," Dagel said. "And also the tackle sets are different. Coach K wanted a 45 set and Blaney wanted us a vertical set. Vertical set is harder to learn but it's definitely more effective."
(I will try to clarify this jargon Tuesday with Blaney at Pro Day)
Also: "The tackles are at a two-point stance more often now and that completely changes footwork."
There will be, however, still be pulling.
"As of right now, in our playbook and what we've seen, the guards and tackles will do close to the same amount of pulling," Dagel said. "Guards will do a little more. The pulling techniques are different. From what I've seen, they're pretty happy with it."