AMES — David Montgomery didn’t want to waste any time.
Last June, less than a day after he stepped on campus, Montgomery was in the weight room and spotted Iowa State running backs coach Lou Ayeni and walked right over.
Montgomery asked Ayeni what he could do in those summer months to put himself in a better position to see the field as a true freshman. That was music to Ayeni’s ears, and Montgomery was putting in extra film sessions in short order.
“He just kind of gave me formations I should study and different film I should study, just the basics,” Montgomery said in his first session with the media at Iowa State. “I kind of took it to another level by looking up on YouTube looking at how this coverage works and how the offense works and kind of compared it to our game. That’s pretty much how I got it done.”
All of that time spent in the film room paid dividends for Montgomery last fall. The 5-foot-11, 222-pound sophomore led the Cyclones in rushing with 563 yards on 109 carries and started the final four contests — he played in all 12 games.
There aren’t any public depth charts to speak of after only two spring practices, but Montgomery has situated himself at the top of the list. His versatility and football I.Q., Ayeni said, have helped his growth accelerate a little bit more than an average freshman.
“He’s a matchup nightmare because can run routes like a receiver, he can catch the ball like a receiver,” Ayeni said. “You can put him at quarterback. You ask him, he can throw it as far as anyone on our football team.”
Montgomery, nicknamed ‘Slash’ last fall, forces defenses to choose a linebacker or defensive back to cover him. As he showed late last season, he can make either one of them pay.
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The best performance of Montgomery’s first year came at Kansas when he had 169 rushing yards on 24 carries in a win. He had 13 catches for 129 yards last season too.
Behind Montgomery is junior Mike Warren, who rushed more than 1,000 yards in 2015, and sophomore Sheldon Croney Jr. In the absence of sophomore Kene Nwangwu, who suffered an Achilles injury in winter workouts that will keep him out until fall camp at the earliest, Ethan Staskewicz has also given depth to the position.
“We’ve got high-end guys,” Ayeni said. “I know Kene is hurt, but I always say, those top-three guys, they’re high-end caliber guys, potential NFL guys. I’m not afraid to say it, they are. If they work hard, do the right things and develop, they can play on Sundays. I’ve seen it. They’ve got the skillsets to do it, they just have to put in the effort and keep on working at it.”
Now that Montgomery is established, the expectations change. He’ll have more on his plate in year two, but it’s not the individual nature of his position that concerns him. Iowa State has the potential to take a leap forward with the combination of its backfield and revamped offensive line.
Montgomery wants to do what he can to bring everybody, regardless of position, along with him.
“My realistic expectation is I just want to be a more firm leader,” Montgomery said. “I know what I’m capable of and coaches obviously see what I’m capable of so I just want to come out like, ‘Let’s do this as a team.’”
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