ISU's James White stood out in weekend scrimmage

Junior started nine games last season

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AMES — Saturday’s Iowa State football scrimmage was closed to the media.

But for James White, it blew wide open.

The explosive and now-featured junior running back sprinted and darted for what Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads estimated to be an 80- to 90-yard touchdown.

No one’s keeping score, but White continues to impress with a productive blend of speed, precision and ...

“Patience,” said White, who led ISU with 743 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns last season. “I just try to basically slow the game down more.”

White’s highlight reel-worthy jaunt stood out in an otherwise mercurial day.

ISU committed five turnovers and, Rhoads said, made too many flag-marked mistakes.

“Spinning back to the positive, it was a very physical and energized scrimmage,” Rhoads added. “It was a Big 12 scrimmage; make no mistake that that was a Big 12 football team in that stadium. They acted like it and they played like it. When I talk about mistakes, we had too many penalties (Saturday) and I separate penalties in the nature of being aggressive, pass interference, versus being foolish, jumping offsides. We had a split of both, but either way on this particular day it was too many.”

Both of the top quarterbacks, Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz, felt the scrimmage went well.

Barnett hit former quarterback Jerome Tiller for a long touchdown pass Rhoads mentioned.

“JT ran a great route, got open and made a great catch and took off down the field,” Barnett said. “It was great to see him running.”

Jantz noted general improvement over last week’s scrimmage.

He also acknowledged a greater emphasis on involving running backs such as White, Jeff Woody and DeVondrick Nealy in the passing game.

“That was something — we had it last year, but as quarterbacks we didn’t do a good job with it,” Jantz said. “I think as we’ve gotten older we realize how important it is, so now that we’re using that, it’s helping us.”

White’s helped solidify an offensive backfield balancing veterans (him and Woody) with relative newcomers (Nealy, Rob Standard).

“He understands what we’re asking for right now,” said ISU running backs coach Kenith Pope. “Every day he goes out there, he tries to give you a good day’s work. Coach (Rhoads) uses the expressions, ‘all in,’ and ‘give it up,’ and I really feel that James has given it up every time he’s out there — whether he’s on the practice field or in the meeting room.”

White’s not giving up much.

Football’s enjoyable, he said.

Don’t overthink it.

Learn with the flow.

“Football’s not a hard sport,” said White, who started nine games last season after Shontrelle Johnson suffered a season-ending neck injury. “People make it harder than what it is. You’ve just got to go out there and make plays. It’s a fun, easy game. Even though it might be violent at times, that’s why we’ve got on pads.”

JOHNSON UPDATE: ISU running back Shontrelle Johnson still awaits clearance to participate in contact activities after undergoing neck surgery last season. It’s uncertain if and when he’ll return to the field, but he’s still active with the team. “He’s as fast twitch as ever before,” Pope said. “If we get him back, I hope we get him back, he will be a pleasant surprise for us.”

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