Sheldon Croney takes a handoff in practice. (Photo credit: Iowa State Athletics Communcations)
There are few positions on Iowa State’s roster where the depth chart is more solid at the top than running back. Sophomore David Montgomery and redshirt junior Mike Warren are firmly entrenched as the team’s top two backs, but the next few slots aren’t quite so sure.
After Kene Nwangwu injured his achilles during the winter, which left his availability for next season in question, one of the staff’s objectives during the spring became finding a third guy at tailback. As the spring went on, two players, redshirt sophomore Sheldon Croney and redshirt freshman Ethan Staskewicz, emerged as two of the top candidates to fill the role.
“Obviously, we know the talent of Mike and we know the talent of David,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “We believe in those guys and I think it was really good for us to give some opportunities to Sheldon Croney (in last Saturday’s scrimmage). I think when you practice with, you know, you’ve got Mike and you’ve got David then Sheldon sometimes and Ethan Staskewicz sometimes, well, they get the reps with the (No. 3) offensive line. Maybe, sometimes they don’t get the opportunity to showcase what they can do. It can be mayhem out there, especially in spring football.”
The 5-foot-11-inch, 205-pound Croney came to Iowa State in Paul Rhoads’ last recruiting class, but was forced to redshirt his first college season after suffering an injury from an accidental gunshot. The former three-star prospect chose Iowa State over Boise State, Oregon State and Colorado State, but he’s seen himself become somewhat buried on the depth chart as players like Montgomery, Warren and Nwangwu emerged as serious playmakers.
Now, he might be getting an opportunity to prove he will be capable of making an impact next fall.
“I think it was good for us to see Sheldon really run the ball well,” Manning said. “He can do a lot of things as well and we’re happy to see his progression so we’re excited to see what he can do from a depth standpoint.”
Staskewicz joined Iowa State’s program as a walk-on after rushing for 1,934 yards and 25 touchdowns as a high school senior. The 6-foot, 196-pound tailback was a two-time all-state selection in Missouri.
“We have a young guy in Ethan Staskewicz that has provided some good depth,” Manning said. “Just continues to roll on.”
There is still a long time before Iowa State will take the field in the fall, but it is encouraging to hear about some guys stepping up to fill bigger roles. This weekend’s spring game will likely give Croney and Staskewicz their best chance yet to showcase their skills on the Jack Trice Stadium turf.