116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Life as a college football coach isn’t easy.
But having a Heisman Trophy candidate sure makes it less difficult.
Iowa State running backs and receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase has that in junior running back Breece Hall.
Hall put together one of the best individual seasons Iowa State has seen since Troy Davis. Hall was first or second in the nation in almost every significant rushing category.
He had 1,572 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards nine times last season and had at least one touchdown in every game.
If his rushing production wasn’t enough, he also was a productive pass catcher out of the backfield where he caught 23 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously we’re excited about the year Breece had where he was a legitimate Heisman contender where he did a bunch of stuff for us on the field in terms of running with the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield,” Scheelhaase said. “The exciting part is, we still feel like there are a lot of areas for Breece to improve in and he feels the same way.”
Hall, who finished sixth in last season’s Heisman voting, is focused on the intricacies of the game.
“He’s excited about learning the whole offense and understanding how we’re trying to attack teams,” Scheelhaase said. “He’s been pressing himself in the film room and he’s been studying opposing defenses, too, and how they were trying to stop him. There’s room for him to grow and the best part about Breece is he’s hungry for that growth.”
While having a player the caliber of Hall is great for an offense, running back is a position where teams need multiple players. Iowa State knows this. Its backup running back last season, Kene Nwangwu, was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, ahead of Chubba Hubbard, who was supposed to be the best running back in the Big 12 last season.
Who will take over that critical role for the Cyclones? Sophomore Jirehl Brock, who was in the same recruiting class as Hall.
While Nwangwu was the one to spell Hall for drives, Brock was the Cyclones’ de facto third-down running back.
His best game was against Kansas State, when he caught three passes out of the backfield on third down for 26 yards, while also rushing for 25 yards.
“Jihrel came in and played a big role for us with the things he was able to do for us on third downs,” Scheelhaase said. “We relied on him as a third-down back. We saw him go in there and make plays by catching the ball out of the backfield, protecting the quarterback and running the ball well. Knowing that Kene has graduated and moved on, Jirehl gets to step into a role knowing that we’ll rely on him even more.
“When we, as a coaching staff, reflect back on last season, Jirehl proved a lot to us in what he can do for our offense.”
Hall and Brock were highly-rated 4-star recruits out of high school. The fact they’ve coexisted this long is a testament to both, especially after Hall won the spot his true freshman season and Brock barely got a touch until last season.
With Brock’s talent and ability, he easily could’ve transferred to another school to get more playing time.
“The fact he didn’t transfer says a lot about Jirehl in who he is and what he’s about,” Scheelhaase said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s the type of kid who comes in everyday and he isn’t focused on the depth chart and he’s not worried how many touches he got last Saturday, he’s just focused on bettering himself.”
It also helps knowing that for your first two seasons, you weren’t just behind one NFL running back but two. Now, Brock will get his opportunity to show he’s capable of being more than just a good third-down back, but a well-rounded running back who can carry an offense for a drive while Hall takes a breather on the sidelines.