Iowa State dangerously thin, inexperienced at running back

Going into the offseason, Iowa State looked to be in decent shape at running back, despite starter Aaron Wimberly graduating. Returning veteran Devondrick Nealy had proved to be a versatile option. And Martinez Syria was coming off a solid true freshman campaign as a short-yardage specialist.

But in February, Nealy left the team. And Wednesday, Syria was dismissed for violating team rules.

As the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch pointed out, this has left Iowa State in a precarious spot at running back heading into the season.

"Syria and Tyler Brown were the lone returners. ... and even Brown's experience was limited, rushing for 109 yards on 24 attempts in 11 games," Birch wrote. "If that wasn't concerning enough, Iowa State is coming off a 2014 season that saw it rank ninth among Big 12 schools in rushing offense, averaging just 124.1 yards per game."

All hope for the position is not lost for the Cyclones. But the offseason departures have placed added pressure on Mike Warren to produce. Warren rushed for 2,512 yards and 26 touchdowns during an outstanding senior season of high school in Lawton, Oklahoma, but redshirted as a true freshman last year after injuring his shoulder.

Iowa State will also need incoming freshmen Sheldon Croney and Joshua Thomas to chip in. Croney is actually recovering from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to his left hand suffered last month.

The Cyclones have a chance to be dangerous offensively. Sam B. Richardson is the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12, and the receiving duo of Quenton Bundrage and Allen Lazard has a chance to be one of the best in the league.

But as the Cyclones aim to bounce back from a disappointing 2-10 record, running back has ballooned into one of their biggest concerns.