AMES — When new running backs coach Louis Ayeni arrived in Ames in January, he had no idea what he would have to work with when the spring rolled around.
When he got a look at senior Aaron Wimberly and redshirt junior DeVondrick Nealy, he quickly recognized the ISU running game could have a pretty dynamic duo in the backfield. For Iowa State to find success, Ayeni knows he will have to “maximize their potential,” which means getting them involved in the passing game.
“Both of those guys have outstanding hands and the big thing about both of those guys is they’re very good after the catch because they’re outstanding open-field runners,” Ayeni said. “So any time we can get them in space or get them in a matchup, we’re going to do that.”
Wimberly led the Cyclones in rushing with 567 yards a year ago and also made 18 receptions for 211 yards, scoring two rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. He was also the first ISU rusher to go for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games since 2010.
Nealy, who rushed for 158 yards on 41 carries last season, made his presence felt in the second half of the season particularly on special teams. He returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against TCU, and is looking for an even bigger role in the offense any way he can get it.
“Basically spread me out and get me in space in whatever they can use me in,” Nealy said. “Catching the ball out of the backfield, lining up at receiver, whatever is needed I’m just ready to get in the scenarios and do my best and do what I can to make the team the best it can be.”
While Ayeni said a decision hasn’t been made officially on whether Iowa State will run a two-back system with Wimberly and Nealy in the backfield at the same time, there is potential for it.
Looking at himself and Nealy, Wimberly sees a lot of similarities and thinks the running game will be as explosive as ever, especially if they are on the field together.
“That can cause a lot of problems (for defenses),” Wimberly said. “(DeVondrick and I) can do a lot of things out of the backfield and can mix a lot of things up on the field.”
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