Room For More?

Iowa State took two running backs in 2013 and 2014 and could do the same in 2015, one of the JUCO variety. It makes a ton of sense

Since 2011, there's a crude pattern to Iowa State's running backs recruiting:

  • '11: DeVondrick Nealy, Rob Standard.
  • '12: None.
  • '13: Aaron Wimberly (JUCO), Tyler Brown.
  • '14: Martinez Syria, Michael Warren.
  • Paul Rhoads, if he finds backs he likes, has no issues taking more than one ball-carrier in a class, citing he'd like "three and a half" warm bodies at the position, so three heavy-load lifters and another in the wings, eating up reserve touches.

    In 2013, ISU signed Wimberly, despite having rising seniors James White, Jeff Woody and Shontrelle Johnson (who injured his knee three days before Wimberly announced his commitment) in the backfield along with sophomores-to-be DeVondrick Nealy and Rob Standard.

    It wasn't a head-scratcher at the time, if only because Wimberly was clearly that good at Iowa Western, but the pieces didn't perfectly mesh.

    Well, Wimberly ended up far better than any of ISU's incumbent options. The signing now looks crucial with the Cyclones entering a 2014 season without a handful of experienced backs.

    When Wimberly comes off the books after the season, ISU will have two rising seniors in Nealy and Standard, a sophomore in Tyler Brown and redshirt freshmen Syria and Warren.

    It's not a loaded group, but it's a talented one. There might not be a workhorse among them, though — which brings us to Butler JUCO running back Chris Carson.

    Carson, as Scout.com reporter Tuesday night, will visit Iowa State officially the last weekend in August. ISU is in the lead and the pack is far behind. Carson is a candidate to commit at the end of the weekend, if things remain in a holding pattern.

    Before all that happens, three-star running back Devine Ozigbo, of Sachse, Texas, announces his decision on July 22. Ozigbo has ISU in his private top-four. The Cyclones and rival Iowa are the two teams to beat. Ozigbo told AllCyclones.com on Sunday he hasn't yet decided where he'll end up.

    In such a small class (15-20, depending on who you talk to), is it smart for ISU to take two running backs? Especially when it signed two in 2014? Even, as the pattern would dictate, this is this class to sign one or even none?

    Yes, yes, yes.

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    Brown, Warren and Syria were all bright prospects who have impressed program sources during their time in Ames — Brown had a tremendous redshirt season and Warren and Syria, who arrived in Iowa last month, have passed the eye test.

    But if you're building an offense around a stable ground game — and even though Mark Mangino is known for his passing attack, he will look to do this — you better make sure you've got a lot of options. ISU doesn't yet fully know what it has in either of those players.

    And, really, it doesn't totally know what it's got in Nealy and Standard. Nealy is certainly an intriguing player, as he's shown off his versatility and knack of big plays so far. And still ... three years into his career, Nealy has a total of 67 carries with an average of 3.1 yards per rush.

    Standard rushed for nearly 8,000 yards and 98 touchdowns at Chaminade High School in St. Louis, breaking the area rushing records. He's still waiting to make his mark at Iowa State, his redshirt junior year fast approaching. It figures Standard will assume the Jeff Woody role in 2014 — and bring more to the table in that regard, thanks to his pass-catching and supreme ability — while gearing up for a larger role in 2015.

    The idea of Standard and Nealy handling the lion's share in 2015 is interesting, a thunder-lightening combo. Brown should be ready for the bright lights at that point, as a sophomore, and his duties could be reminiscent to Nealy's in 2013. There's room for a JUCO running back here, a balanced ball-carrier like Carson, because there's too many unknowns in the '15 rotation: Can Nealy handle 200 carries? Is Standard any good?

    At the very least, Carson is a contingency plan, and he's a talented one at that.

    There'll always be room for Ozigbo, who's quickly become target No. 1 for Iowa State following its recent streak of recruiting momentum. If he signs with the Cyclones, he'd probably redshirt in 2015 — though Ayeni's philosophy might be different regarding redshirts; we'll see — and then wait his turn. By the time Ozigbo's a headliner, Nealy, Standard and Carson will be long gone.

  • 2015: Nealy (SR), Standard (SR), Brown (SO), Warren (rFR), Syria (rFR), Ozigbo (redshirting).
  • 2016: Brown (JR) Warren (SO), Syria (SO), Ozigbo (rFR).

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