Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football notes: Backup running backs, kicking competition and more

Iowa State Kene Nwangwu runs the ball against West Virginia on Nov. 26, 2016, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
Iowa State Kene Nwangwu runs the ball against West Virginia on Nov. 26, 2016, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)

AMES — David Montgomery is a workhorse.

He’s routinely called the hardest worker on the Iowa State football team and on the field. His strength and balance allow him to turn a negative play into a positive.

But it can take a toll on him.

Luckily for Iowa State and football coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have four other running backs waiting in the wings, including two guys in Johnnie Lang and Kene Nwangwu who complement what Montgomery is able to do with their speed and ability to make people miss.

“Two guys we have great confidence in — Johnnie Lang and Kene Nwangwu — were both injured last year and weren’t available to us,” Campbell said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Now, you get two guys back who are healthy.”

But they aren’t playing just because Montgomery will need a break, Campbell said. They’re earning the right to play.

“With that running back position, if you just have one guy, that’s really hard,” Campbell said. “We’re fortunate. Instead of saying, ‘We’re trying to save David.’ We feel like, ‘Gosh, we have some really good options.’”

Kicking competition

One of Iowa State’s most notable battles, besides the middle linebacker competition, is for who will kick extra points and field goals.

Campbell said Chris Francis will handle kickoffs once again for the Cyclones, but there’s a three-person race for field goals between Francis, Connor Assalley and Brayden Narveson.

“I know how critical that role is for our football program,” Campbell said. “Now, with that said, I’m really proud of what those guys have done. It’s not their inadequacies keeping us from not making a decision, it’s really that all of those guys have had good camps. When I look at them and see the success that they’ve had, that’s more so the challenge for us, right now. You want to be slow to go on this situation.

“I want these guys to take the pressure of game week and see how that looks and then make the right call.”

Campbell said Assalley is very consistent, Narveson has elite talent and Francis has a powerful leg.

Using tight ends

Iowa State tight ends have been in a little bit of a state of disrepair since before Matt Campbell arrived in Ames. The last Iowa State tight end to catch a touchdown pass was E.J. Bibbs in 2014.

“For the first time since we’ve been here, we feel really confident about the tight end position,” Campbell said. “You knew there were really good players there a year ago, but they’re so much like offensive lineman — everybody wants to just get them on the field. There is such a physicality to that position that you want the growth and development to happen.

“Now, you see Chase (Allen) at 255 pounds, you see Charlie Kolar at 260 pounds and you see Dylan Seohner at 282 pounds. They’re maturing. They not only give you flexibility in the pass game but in the offensive line, too to create gaps.”

Young receivers stepping up

Campbell knows what he has in Hakeem Butler, Matt Eaton, Deshaunte Jones and even Tarique Milton, to an extent.

But two guys he’s been impressed with throughout fall camp are redshirt sophomore Jalen Martin and redshirt freshman Josh Johnson.

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“I thought both of those guys really took advantage of spring football, the summer and fall camp going into the season,” Campbell said. “Both guys really want to play, both guys are highly competitive. Matt Eaton was a huge asset to Josh. I think Hakeem did the same thing to Jalen.”

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