AMES — The nation’s leader in rushing yards per game resides in Iowa.
In Ames, more specifically.
Iowa State running back Breece Hall has picked up his sophomore season right where he left off as a freshman.
Hall is averaging 143 yards per game, which leads the nation, he has nine rushing touchdowns, which is third in the nation, and he’s averaging 6.34 yards per carry, which is eighth among running backs who have played in at least four games.
No matter which way you slice it, Hall deserves to be recognized among the nation’s best running backs.
The sophomore also deserves to be mentioned among Coach Matt Campbell’s best running backs — a list that includes Kareem Hunt at Toledo and David Montgomery at Iowa State.
“I certainly think he’s shown some very similar traits as what those two showed during their college careers,” Campbell said. “The biggest thing those two have that Breece has really shown is not only a talent, but really the preparation and detail. I think that’s the greatest growth he’s made since he was a freshman to now as a sophomore. How he’s prepared, how he takes care of his body, how he goes to practice.
“He’s starting to see what his full potential can look like.”
As the lead running back, Hall is going to get his fair share of bumps and bruises throughout the season. He has made a conscious effort to take recovery as seriously as possible.
“Recovery starts after the game by eating right and making sure you’re getting your sleep,” Hall said. “Sunday, we have treatment that starts at 1 p.m., so I get in there from 1 to 3 p.m. During the week we might have treatment once or twice a day so I try to make both treatment sessions. I just try to get as much in as possible, whether it’s the cold tub, cryotherapy or rolling out my legs and my body.”
Cryotherapy, he said, is his least favorite.
“That gets soooo cold,” he said. “It sucks.”
On the surface, Hall and Montgomery appear to have two completely different running styles.
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Montgomery, in his second season with the Chicago Bears, was more of a shifty, power back. He was going to make multiple cuts per run and then run through someone if he had to. It’s how he led the nation in forced missed tackles. He also wasn’t going to outrun anyone.
Hall, on the other hand, is a one-cut running back. He waits for a hole to open, puts his foot in the ground and gets north and south and doesn’t really make any cuts after that. Hall has a bit more speed than Montgomery and his one-cut style allows him to break off big runs.
Hall has three runs of 65 yards or more this season. In Montgomery’s career, he never had a run longer than 58 yards.
While their running styles differ, safety Greg Eisworth has noticed a few similarities, as well.
“(Comparing them) is something I found myself doing a lot more often as the season goes on,” Eisworth said. “It’s like, ‘Man, they’re actually really similar backs.’ Like when you see Breece make somebody miss — and even just on the carries where it’s a 5- or 6-yard gain, but he made a few guys miss and fell forward — that’s something that David always did and to me that’s a sign of a great back.
“You see all the explosive runs by Breece. You see him making people miss on those, but one thing that I’ve always noticed about those two guys is that they’re going to make the first guy miss and they’re going to fall forward and get extra yards and to me that’s another sign of a great back.”
Campbell’s next step for Hall is to round out his game.
“Coach Campbell’s challenge for me is he knows what I can do with the ball in my hands but his focus for me is when the ball isn’t in my hands,” Hall said. “Things like pass protection, helping out the offensive linemen and then communicating with Brock (Purdy), running my checkdowns out of the backfield.
“I’m trying to be one of the leaders on offense.”