AMES — Iowa State is in a bit of a predicament when it comes to the kick return game. Aaron Wimberly, an elusive senior running back, is probably one of the top two guys for the job. However, his value to the offense is immense and as 2013 proved, Wimberly’s durability is a major question mark heading into the season.
On the pre-camp depth chart that Iowa State released a few weeks ago in Dallas, Wimberly was listed as a first-team kick returner along with fellow running back DeVondrick Nealy.
Really though? Would Iowa State really risk Wimberly’s health at kick return?
“I’ve been told that I have the green light to rep him there,” special teams coordinator Shane Burnahm said after Wednesday’s practice.
This is a good problem to have. Iowa State has three proven, explosive options at kick return.
DeVondrick Nealy returned the second-longest kick in school history 98-yards for a touchdown against TCU last season. Jarvis West housed the fourth longest return in school history for a 95-yard touchdown at Texas Tech.
“Jarvis is like second in the history of Iowa State in kick returns,” Burnham said. “He averaged 13.1 yards per return and was third in the Big 12 last year. Aaron and DV have the ability to make people miss. They are sure-handed and you don’t have to worry about them catching it in the backfield. I think it will be a combination of those guys, just like last year.”
The biggest difference between this trio and those of the past, according to Burnham, is their desire to win the job.
“I think they want to be the guy,” Burnham said. “I think in years past, they weren’t sure. Josh Lenz had it but I’m not sure if he really wanted it. I think these guys don’t want Jarvis to have it because Aaron wants to beat him out. I think our guys know blocking for these jokers that they do have the ability to spit one. It makes those guys up front on kickoff return work that much harder.”
We’ve established that Iowa State has multiple weapons and options for the kick return game this season, which is great. But again, do you really want to risk Aaron Wimberly’s health for the sake of your special teams unit?
Right now, the Cyclones are seriously considering it but remember, fall camp is only four days young.