Iowa State transfer-in back shows quickness
Former Iowa Wesleyan running back Wimberly impresses early in spring
AMES — Early warning to Big 12 defenders.
The wrinkle speedy Iowa Western transfer Aaron Wimberly adds to Iowa State’s well-stocked running game could turn into a much-needed chasm.
“As soon as he sees a sliver of daylight — gone,” short-distance back Jeff Woody said of the 5-11, 180-pound bundle of versatility after Saturday’s closed scrimmage. “There’s not a corner or a safety in the league that can take away an angle that he has when he’s 100 percent healthy and gets going.”
Wimberly is the latest reason for optimism in a backfield that produced the fewest rushing yards among conference teams in 2012. He averaged 7.4 yards per rush last season, fifth among NJCAA backs, and chose the Cyclones over Iowa, Penn State, Boise State and TCU.
“I really want to see myself using my vision more with the pistol (formation),” Wimberly said. “Basically, be more explosive.”
The Cyclones averaged 150.8 yards rushing last season — a number Wimberly, along with returners such as James White and DeVondrick Nealy, looks to bolster. He showcased less of his explosiveness this Saturday when compared to the last, which turned out to be a positive development.
“Not as many big plays as we had in the first scrimmage, but I attribute that to the defense,” Cyclone Coach Paul Rhoads said. “The defense practiced and played faster this week. It’s a little bit like pitching and hitting. Who’s ahead and who catches up? And the defense, here in this third week, has caught back up a little bit.”
Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said his mostly green unit still exhibits a stormy relationship with the fundamentals, but also shows flashes of play-making ability primed by improved athleticism.
“We’ve got so many young guys out there, they make a lot of mistakes,” Burnham said. “They’re just really struggling right now, but overall the first defense probably, hopefully played pretty good.”
“Not very well,” Burnham said. “You’ve got to evaluate the first group, the second group and then that third group. And it starts downhill pretty fast there.”
That’s a direction Wimberly and his fellow backs expect to head, too — in a different sense, of course.
“As soon as we got on the field, I felt that this was my opportunity,” he said. “Easy transition, because it’s just like what I came from.”
Woody said incorporating more pistol elements into the offense should provide broad-ranging benefits — from the backfield to the wide receiving corps.
ODDS & ENDSOft-injured, but talented offensive lineman Shaban Dika was listed as a potential starter this spring. Now the 6-5, 322-pounder’s out for good. “(He’s) no longer going to be able to play football,” Rhoads said. “The knee injuries that he’s sustained, just too much. ... That’s a blow.” The team has adjusted by getting possible left tackle starter Jacob Gannon, along with backup center, Ben Loth and down-the-depth-chart lineman Oni Omoile work at the left guard position Dika manned. “(Omoile’s) coming on as a player, as we anticipated he would,” Rhoads said.