AMES — Iowa State’s five running backs have accounted for just 447 yards on 88 carries through four games.
Quarterback Brock Purdy is Iowa State’s leading rusher, not counting sacks, with 157 yards.
“Obviously, I think every year and every situation’s different,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Right now, I think it’s been an all-in mentality. But it will be really interesting to see how this season emerges and who emerges at that position. But I think it’s a tough question, because we’d all love David Montgomery ... but now you’re kind of trying to figure out who is that guy? What is that situation for you?
“We’ve had some guys step up and do some great things for us so far. Has that guy — one single person — emerged yet? They haven’t.”
Kene Nwangwu has been, by far, Iowa State’s most productive and most efficient running back when he’s been in. He’s rushed 15 times for 119 yards. The problem is, he’s missed a significant amount of time in two games this season with various injuries.
That leaves Campbell with Johnnie Lang, who isn’t as productive, but did have his most efficient game in Iowa State’s 23-21 loss Saturday against Baylor when he rushed six times for 35 yards and caught one pass for 12 yards.
“Johnnie is a guy I have great confidence in because of that trust factor,” Campbell said. “When his number has been called, he’s been able to be the most consistent guy. I still think there is really good competition there right now. I still think practice is really important. Who practices the best is going to determine who gets the opportunities come Saturday.
“Until somebody really separates themselves from the pack, I think it’s hard to come out and say, ‘That’s our guy.’ But Johnnie is one of those guys who has elite trust by all of our coaches.”
All-Big 12 defensive end JaQuan Bailey likely will miss Iowa State’s game Saturday against TCU with a lower leg injury.
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While the injury will undoubtedly impact the Cyclones line, Campbell is confident in Bailey’s backup, Zack Petersen.
“We’re really fortunate that that’s an area we have great depth,” Campbell said. “The one thing about Zach is he’s played the best out of all of our defensive linemen up to this date, anyway. JaQuan is a leader on our football team, JaQuan is a guy — if he’s not able to play — that can still make a huge impact on this football team. That’s an area where we have a lot of depth and we’re confident that the next man up will do a really good job for us.”
Campbell said Nwangwu is back to 100 percent health and he believes receiver Tarique Milton will be 100 percent by the time Saturday rolls around.
Center Colin Newell also is close to coming back. When Newell does return, whether it’s this week or next, Campbell will have a decision to make about the offensive line. Will he decide to go back to how it was at the beginning of the season, or does he want to shuffle it?
“I think it’s one of those situations where it’s what’s best for our football team,” Campbell said. “However that looks, putting our best five on the field is our responsibility for this team to be the best version of itself it can be. I think that’s what it’ll be once Colin is healthy. Once he’s shown he’s healthy, we’ll evaluate what’s the best five for the offensive line and what’s the best version of us?”
Depth chart shake-up
For the first time this season, Iowa State’s depth chart looks different.
Campbell has moved Will McDonald from linebacker to defensive end, where he played last season.
“Will’s a guy we continue to tinker with to use his talents the best way we possibly can,” Campbell said. “Obviously Will has abilities that we have to find ways to get on the field. That’s the biggest thing we’ve tried to do defensively — whether it’s at linebacker and him standing up at the mike or the will or the sam, or whether it’s him putting his hand down on the defensive line.
“Getting him on the field to affect the game is important for us.”