AMES — There isn’t a position with more question marks entering the 2015 Iowa State football season than Paul Rhoads’ young group of running backs. This bunch returns just one player that had a single carry in 2014.
Fans and media have asked if they have the experience or the talent necessary to put together a respectable Big 12 rushing game. This group that is coached by Lou Ayeni has heard the people questioning them, and they are ready to rise to the challenge.
“Everybody has told them can’t, won’t, never will be,” said Ayeni. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘hell will have no fury like a woman’s scorn.’ I tell them, ‘hell will have no fury like a woman’s scorn and a man with something to prove.’ This group, as a unit, has something to prove.”
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown leads the group into the season with the only returning player with any game experience. Last season he rushed for 109 yards on 24 carries, and caught three passes, including one touchdown. He will split carries with redshirt freshman Mike Warren and true freshman Joshua Thomas. Ayeni says the potential and raw talent he saw from the group in the spring is starting to come out during fall camp.
“It’s amazing the difference from spring until now,” Ayeni said. “They’re playing really fast, especially like Mike Warren, a guy who didn’t really know the offense last year because he was on the scout team to now, he’s a different player. Tyler Brown, being his third year in the deal, second year in the offense, he’s a different player. Joshua Thomas just from coming in this summer to now, he’s a different player. It’s fun to watch these guys go through it, because you can see the ability and the talent."
The group is still looking to find consistency with three weeks to go before Iowa State takes on Northern Iowa on September 5th. Ayeni was looking for a way to show the backs the level of commitment and consistency it takes to be a star running back. He showed them film of one of the most consistent running backs of all-time, Troy Davis.
“That’s a tough guy,” Warren said about the two-time 2,000 yard rusher. “That’s one of our building blocks, is toughness. He wasn’t that big, but he had heart and he was a very good player.”
The carries figure to be split pretty evenly, with Brown most likely being the starter for game number one. Warren said they each bring their own thing to the table. Brown is the speed back. Thomas adds power. Warren brings a mix of both.
“I expect them all to play, I want them all to be ready, I want them to all act like starters,” Ayeni said. “Whoever goes out first, that’s a nice deal and whatever but who’s going to be playing in the fourth quarter and who’s going to be playing when the game’s on the line?”
Ayeni and head coach Paul Rhoads think all three of the backs have the potential to be very good players, and they are ready to hit the field and prove it to the rest of the country.
“We’ve felt a lot of doubt towards our group of guys,” Brown said. “We just want to show that we are here right now.”