After 3 years, it's time for Cyclones to give rock to Brock
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By ERIC OLSON
Jirehl Brock arrived at Iowa State ranked as a four-star recruit and one of the nation's top running back prospects. For three seasons he waited his turn behind Breece Hall.
Such patience is rare now with the transfer portal readily available to any player looking to bolt to another school where he can get on the field sooner.
"That's not who I am," Brock said. "A lot of people now have been transferring and trying to get out of the situation they're in. Some people, I can see it happening. For me, there was not really a thought in my head that I'm not going to be here anymore. My parents taught me to never give up, my time is coming."
Brock's time arrived at the Cheez-It Bowl in December when he started against Clemson in place of Hall, who sat out the game after declaring for the NFL draft. As the Cyclones wrap up spring practice this week, Brock has a firm hold on the No. 1 running back's job.
The fourth-year junior from Quincy, Illinois, is the successor to one of the most dynamic playmakers in program history. Hall left Iowa State as a two-time consensus All-American, the Cyclones' No. 2 all-time rusher and holder of an NCAA-record streak of 24 straight games with at least one touchdown.
Brock has appeared in 27 games, all but two as a backup, and averaged 4.5 yards on 59 carries. He had a career-high 14 carries for 42 yards and three catches for 21 yards in the bowl.
"One of the things I enjoy about Jirehl so much is he carries himself like a leader, he carries himself very professionally and he always has great intent in terms of practice and studying the offense," offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. "He's always been that way. We want our guys to be themselves, and he's proved to be a good leader for us even when he wasn't, quote-unquote, the guy."
Brock was the top signee in Iowa State's 2019 recruiting class, just ahead of Hall, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Rivals ranked Brock as the No. 11 running back in the country and Hall No. 36.
The two backs met in 2018 and bonded during their official campus visit. The night before Hall made his verbal commitment, he texted Brock to let him know. Brock pledged to ISU the next day.
Hall emerged midway through the 2019 season with four 100-yard performances over five games. The job was his.
Brock saw limited action as a freshman, was the No. 3 running back behind Hall and Kene Nwangwu in 2020, and was Hall's primary backup last year.
"All the (recruiting) stars and everything, to me, don't mean a thing," Brock told reporters in December. "Everybody was the best player at their high school. Everybody's fighting for a spot. Breece was more ready than I was at the beginning. With the success that he's had, it showed."
The 6-foot Brock is listed at 215 pounds, same as last season, but he said he has put on a "good amount" of weight since the bowl and feels great physically.
Coach Matt Campbell said Brock is ready to be "the guy."
"I would say this group will be highly competitive, but Jirehl Brock will probably get a lot of use just knowing that he's a guy who played meaningful, critical reps and has had success," Campbell said. "Jirehl had to work through some failures at times but he's really showed us he can play at a high level."
Hall, projected to be one of the first running backs selected in the NFL draft in two weeks, said he left the position in good hands with Brock.
"When he wants to, he can run the ball just as good as me," Hall said. "There's not really going to be any drop-off. I know he'll do well. I have the highest expectations for him. I know he has the highest expectations for himself."
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.
Updated April 13, 2022