AMES, IOWA — The two-a-days and rigorous fall camp schedule has come to an end for Iowa State after just more than two weeks, and while there is still much to be learned about this Iowa State group in the final two weeks leading into the 2015 season, there are some takeaways with camp now in the rearview mirror.
1. The Running Game
Iowa State entered fall camp with a young and inexperienced trio of running backs in redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown, redshirt freshman Mike Warren and true freshman Joshua Thomas, and two weeks later that backfield is no more experienced than when it hit the practice field. The group has combined for 24 carries at the college level, but the Cyclones hope potential can lead to improving the 3.7 rushing yards per game average from 2014.
Who emerged in recent weeks?
"I see all of them emerging for certain things," coach Paul Rhoads said. "I don't see a separation, but I see the emergence out of all of them that you'd like to see."
"It's hard to tell, because not all those guys have been on the field for all the reps, they've all at one time or another missed parts of training camp," offensive coordinator Mark Maningo added. "Hopefully we get these guys on the field [this week] and get them all working at the same time and get some things going at that position. I'm very confident that's going to be a good spot for us."
For now, it appears Iowa State will go with a running back by committee and use all three running backs depending on the situation and play call. At least until one of the backs potentially emerges early in the season.
2. The Eight JUCO Defenders
The big talk entering fall camp for the Iowa State defense was the array of new junior college faces brought in to help improve a defense that allowed nearly 39 points per game during the 2014 season. That defense should be improved in 2015, and those JUCOs could be the primary reason why.
The eight players — including three JUCOs from 2014 who redshirted last season — are now at different stages.
"Those kids are still way behind," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. "They're going to be very limited to the number of plays they can play early and we've got to sit down and do a good job of figuring out how many reps they're going to get and when they're going to get them. But we've been pleased with all of them."
Guys like Demond Tucker (DT), Jordan Harris (MLB) and Jay Jones (nickel) will likely start at their respective positions while others such as Bobby Leath and Jhaustin Thomas among others likely fit into the category of needing to be worked into things early in 2015.
Nonetheless, the group still shows the promise of transforming the unit.
3. Who's No. 2 at Quarterback?
Yet again there is a quarterback battle in Ames, but it isn't to be the No. 1 signal-caller.
With redshirt senior Sam Richardson cemented as Iowa State's starter, the Cyclones entered fall camp with redshirt junior Grant Rohach and redshirt sophomore Joel Lanning vying to be the No. 2 quarterback. Two weeks later? Well, the pair is still battling.
"The No. 2 position, we've gone back and forth with Grant and Joel," Mangino said. "And it looks like we're going to go into another week going back and forth with Grant and Joel. I don't think anybody has convinced me that they're the No. 2 guy yet."
Rohach has the experience with five career starts (and two Big 12 wins), while Lanning has the arm that coaches and teammates alike have raved about. Now both will get another week to emerge before Week 1 arrives.