By Rob Gray
AMES — Twelve carries for James White.
Eleven carries for Shontrelle Johnson.
Ten carries for Aaron Wimberly.
Iowa State went with a fleet of tailbacks in the first two games of the 2012 season — both losses — and something clearly had to give, or someone had to take over, last week at Tulsa.
Cue the 5-9, 173-pound Wimberly, who became the Cyclones’ first running back to gain 100 yards or more in 15 games in the 38-21 trouncing of the Golden Hurricane.
“Yeah, Aaron’s our guy,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.
The soft-spoken but fast-moving junior from Snellville, Ga., gained 137 yards on 19 carries against Tulsa and spun off four runs of 12 yards or more as a once-muddled rushing attack sprang to life in time to raise ISU’s record to 1-2 entering Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. Big 12 season-opening home game against Texas (2-2, 1-0).
“Hopefully, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Cyclone offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said.
Translation: Wimberly’s arrived — and finally pushing warp speed, now that he’s swept around the D-I learning curve.
“I’m a lot more comfortable now,” said Wimberly, who earned Big 12 co-offensive player of the week honors.
That’s comforting to about everybody but Longhorns (2-2, 1-0) coaches and players, who fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after being gouged for 550 yards on the ground in a loss to BYU.
In game two under Greg Robinson, though, the Texas defense limited Kansas State to just 115 rushing yards in a 31-21 win.
“You look at the emotion, the passion that they played with, the production that they played with, and get a better feel for what that defense is very much capable of,” Rhoads said.
But whether the Texas swagger’s back or not, Wimberly won’t need much time — or a chasm-like hole — to cause some wavering.
“He’s got a step of quickness on the others right now and he is very much just a simple one-cut guy,” Rhoads said. “You recruit that as much as you train it. I’ve been around a lot of good running back coaches and they drill the heck out of it, bless their hearts. But the great ones already have it and they go out there and do it.”
Rhoads and his staff saw that in Wimberly early in the recruiting process.
Teammates saw the one-cut skill immediately once he hit the practice field.
“When he sticks that foot on the ground, he is running up and down the field like he might have track spikes on,” bruising back Jeff Woody said.
He showcased that immediately against Tulsa, ripping off 35 yards to set up one of Woody’s three touchdowns.
He darted 31 yards on a screen pass from on-the-mend quarterback Sam Richardson a few drives hence, while sprinkling in later runs of 24, 16 and 12 yards that often led to points.
“It’s something we’ve been waiting for,” Richardson said. “It’s something we knew was going to happen.”
It’s also something that’s expected to continue — now that Mr. One-Cut has become the main guy.
“I’m feeling like teams are going to adjust more to me and that’s going to open up a lot of stuff,” Wimberly said. “For wide receivers and running backs.”
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