CEDAR RAPIDS - There was a noticeable face missing from the Cedar Rapids Rampage bench Saturday night.
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AMES — Two new faces are in charge of making sure Iowa State football’s all-Big 12 caliber running back Mike Warren stays fresh.
True freshmen David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu already have become compliments to Warren in fall camp and impressed coaches while doing it. So much so that running backs coach Lou Ayeni already has come up with a couple nicknames.
“I call them ‘Slash’ and ‘Dash.’ They can do it all,” Ayeni said. “And they’re kind of fun because every day you find, ooh, he can do this, Ooh he can do that, too. It’s been kind of like a Christmas present you’re unwrapping every day. Those two guys, as good as they are as players, they’re really good people and eager to learn.”
At 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, Montgomery — or “Slash” — uses his bulkier frame to his advantage, but in Ayeni’s opinion has the ability to change directions “as good as anybody I’ve ever had and we’ve had a couple NFL guys.” Montgomery rushed for 2,707 yards as a high school senior, the 21st best single-season total in Ohio history.
Nwangwu, although a different body type, possesses similar attributes with another burst of speed. With his 6-foot-1 and 188-pound frame, Nwangwu ran a 10.71 100-meter dash in high school and also won the Texas Class 5A state title in the high jump (6-10) as a senior.
“We’re really lucky that we recruited really well this year because those two freshmen are as talented as any two young freshmen maybe that we’ve had the ability to recruit,” said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.
“They both have elite skill. That doesn’t mean they’re elite players yet, but they have elite skill. They’ve really cushioned our expectations and allowed us to sleep a little bit at night in terms of what they’ve performed like in fall camp and their ability level.”
Adding quality depth at running back also means some pressure will be lifted off Warren’s shoulders. Warren accumulated 1,339 yards and six 100-yard rushing games last year, but didn’t have the luxury of an every-down backup. Joshua Thomas was the second-leading rusher for running backs with 295 yards.
Despite his sophomore classification, Warren has taken the true freshmen under his wing in fall camp and helped bring them along as quickly as possible. That’s meant having attention to detail in every facet of the game.
“I really think it’s more of a reps things instead of watching film,” Warren said. “If they go get a rep that maybe I had before, I just kind of help them out like tell them what to look for and tell them what to do and see if they get it right the next time. If not, I’ll just keep repeating it to them just so they can get the hang of it.”
Sheldon Croney and former Alburnett prep Mitchell Harger round out the stable of running backs. Ayeni called Harger the best pass-protector in the position group. The amount each back will play will be determined through the next couple weeks.
“If they play you’ll notice them,” Ayeni said of his true freshmen. “Trust me, you’ll notice when they play.”
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