Spring Review: Running Backs

Spring ball has come and gone, but there's still a lot to learn about Iowa State's running back position in the months ahead.

The Lowdown

If it hasn’t become redundant yet, it most certainly will by the time the 2015 season reaches full steam: Iowa State’s backfield is young and inexperienced.

The Cyclones will enter the 2015 season with a three-headed backfield that combined for only 44 carries during the 2014 season. That trio includes redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown, true sophomore Martinez Syria and redshirt freshman Michael Warren.

While the group does have promise, it’s hard to set expectations. The backfield should have more power than years past and some breakaway speed, but those assumptions are based mostly on recruiting rankings and perceived potential rather than results.

For now, the group holds expectations, but many questions remain.

What was Learned

The biggest takeaway from the spring was that the running back position will be fresh. DeVondrick Nealy was gone from the team by the time spring ball kicked off, allowing the trio of young backs to take control of the position.

Running backs coach Louis Ayeni has raved about his group’s willingness to learn, but Paul Rhoads has made it clear a lot more learning must take place. The biggest area of work will apparently need to come in the pad level department. During the spring, the group of backs ran with its pads too high, coaches have said. The best fix might simply be more experience.

Health Report

Iowa State escaped the spring mostly healthy in the backfield, but one injury to this young group can have a ripple effect. That took place when Syria went down with a jammed neck, an injury similar to the one that slowed his 2014 season.

From all other accounts, Iowa State is healthy. But, Syria has now dealt with injuries around his head (concussion-like injuries) in his first year and a half with the program. There doesn’t seem to be a worry he’ll be fine, but Iowa State will need its trio to remain mostly healthy to avoid digging deep into its depth.

To Be Determined

Much is still to be determined when it comes to the running backs, but really there are two key pieces of information still waiting to be found out.

For one, it remains unclear who will get the carries. It’s know that Brown, Syria and Warren will combine for almost all of the carries, but the plan didn’t become any more clear after five weeks of spring ball. How will Iowa State spread the ball? That question might not even be answered by Week 1.

On top of that, it remains to be seen who else joins the mix. Rhoads has made it clear that incoming freshmen Sheldon Croney and Joshua Thomas will both get looks at running back and a chance to compete for playing time immediately. It’s almost certain one of the two will redshirt, but it remains to be seen who.


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