By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Through the first five games of the 2011 Iowa State football season, sophomore running back James White has run for five touchdowns. Meanwhile, the team’s starting back Shontrelle Johnson (who missed Saturday’s game with Baylor due to side effects of a stinger) has zero.
Regardless of how you chalk it up, that stat is surprising.
White ran for 148 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown run in the Baylor game. He’ll likely be Iowa State’s featured back against Missouri this week, as head coach Paul Rhoads tabbed Johnson as doubtful during his weekly press conference.
White isn’t a large man. He’s only 5-foot-8 inches tall and according to Rhoads, that’s part of the reason why White is so good. Iowa State’s head coach knows first hand, as he observed this during practice last week.
“I was on the defensive end of practice watching our offense," Rhoads said. "I turned around and commented to Yancy McKnight, ‘you can’t see him.’ He is so small, as we were working on our run game where a safety would be positioned, you physically lose him for a count or so with his quickness as he shoots through a hole. Now you’re in a one-on-one situation. When you’re reacting to that behind, advantage to the offensive player and James White.”
“He runs hard for his size with not a great ability to move a pile but at the same time, he does not get knocked back. I believe he has shown more speed to our football team and staff than we would have credited him for. It is obvious, the quickness that he has. But in two consecutive weeks, he has been able to go the distance with runs. I don’t think that many people on our football team would have said that he could finish off.”
A thought: Compare the drop off Shontrelle Johnson to James White to that of Alexander Robinson and Jeremiah Schwartz from two years ago.
No further analysis is needed. Iowa State’s talent has been upgraded in a major way at the running back position.
YOUNG DE’S MAKING PROGRESS
At this point in the season, White’s five touchdowns are a surprising stat.
This one is shocking.
Sophomore defensive end Willie Scott has more tackles (20) than any other defensive lineman on Iowa State’s roster.
“He made a play on Griffin that was a hard play to make against maybe the best quarterback in college football," said Rhoads of Scott’s performance vs. Baylor.
Other members of Iowa State’s line have taken notice.
“It’s nice to know that we have some depth and that people can step up at any moment to make some plays," said junior tackle Jake McDonough. "It’s helpful for us when we don’t have to be on the field for every play.”
“Willie Scott has come a long way. He’s making plays left and right and it’s not surprising.”
And then there’s true freshman defensive end David Irving. The 6-foot-7, 261-pound rookie out of California has only notched two tackles so far, but the freakish athletic ability Irving has shown has been very noticeable.
"David, with every rep gets better," said Rhoads. "Maturity is a big part of that. He has got to understand the urgency that he needs to play with at this level to continue that improvement. We talked about that with him specifically yesterday. I’m very excited and encouraged about those two young players standing out.”