AMES (MCT) — Shontrelle Johnson showed Iowa State fans last fall he could be a dangerous weapon returning kicks for the Cyclones.
The DeLand, Fla. native ranked fourth in the Big 12 averaging 23.4 yards on 25 kickoff returns, including a season-best 62-yard return against Iowa.
Johnson also showed brief glimpses of what he can do as a running back. He had a 61-yard touchdown run against Texas Tech and a 33-yard scoring jaunt against Kansas as he rushed for 218 yards on 35 carries in limited action backing-up Alexander Robinson.
With Robinson graduated, Johnson enters the 2011 season listed as the Cyclones’ No. 1 back.
“I feel like I’m pretty deserving of it,” Johnson says of the starting spot. “I worked my tail off to get there. With that being said, it doesn’t give you any room to slack off. If anything it makes me want to work that much harder to keep that spot.”
Running back is a position Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads calls a position of depth for the Cyclones.
“We think we will be better in 2011 over 2010,” Rhoads said of his running back group to the Courier during spring practice. “The running back position has a chance to be arguably our best position on this football team.”
What Rhoads most means by that statement is that while Johnson is the clear No. 1, Rhoads expects several different players to contribute to the Cyclones running game.
Sophomore Jeff Woody at 6-feet, 235-pounds provides the thunder to 5-foot-9, 187-pound Johnson’s lightning. Additionally, sophomore James White and redshirt freshman Duran “Duck” Hollis have been praised by ISU’s coaching staff.
“As durable as I think he (Johnson) is, I think it is hard to stay healthy at that position as proved by Alexander Robinson’s missed snaps (last season),” Rhoads said. “Jeff Woody gives us a nice change up. As a defensive coordinator I always hated preparing for two different styles of running backs .. the tackling changes that take place with that. The types of runs that take place with that.
“Duran Hollis you haven’t seen much yet, and James White, they’re also quality running backs. I wouldn’t hesitate to put any of these four on the field as we begin this season.”
Woody, who rushed 47 times for 191 yards last season, figures to get the bulk of the short-yardage and goal-line carries.
“We have a lot of diversity in what we have,” Woody said. “Obviously I’m the biggest. We have a lot of different skills that different people provide.
“We’re going to try to capitalize, exploit whatever we see in the defense. What ever piece we have that fits into that hole we are going to try to use him and exploit what the defense has.”
Johnson, at the sametime, is ready to be the primary ball carrier.
“Teams are going to have to respect us with the run game we will have this year,” Johnson said. “I’m ready to show what I can do. I think all of us are ready to do that. We have a great stable of running backs and that is a great thing.”