ISU’s Campbell says Breece Hall ‘elite’ and getting better

When Iowa State running back Breece Hall discusses his role, he first mentions his blocking in pass protection, being a dependable check-down receiver and communicating with teammates.

Everybody else wants to talk about what he does as a ball carrier.

Hall is averaging 150.2 yards per game and will go into the 17th-ranked Cyclones’ home game against Baylor on Saturday night as the nation’s leading rusher among players who have appeared in a minimum of three games.

The sophomore from Wichita, Kansas, has gone over 100 yards in all six games, his four runs of at least 50 yards are most in the country and his 11 rushing touchdowns rank second.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise,” Hall said recently. “But I’ve been happy with some of the results and how our team has been playing a little bit.”

The Cyclones (4-2, 4-1) are in a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 and looking to reach the conference championship game for the first time.

Hall emerged at midseason as a freshman last year and has gone for 100 yards in 10 of his 14 starts.

“Do I think Breece is an elite football player? I do. Do I think he can continue to grow and get better? I do,” coach Matt Campbell said. “There’s nobody else I’d rather play with than Breece.”

Hall matched his career high with 185 yards in a win at Kansas last week, finishing his day with a 58-yard run for the second of his two touchdowns.

Kansas linebacker Nick Channel played high school football against Hall in Wichita and hadn’t seen him since.

“He was a little bit shiftier now than I remember from high school,” Channel said.

Hall comes from a family with plenty of running back acumen. His stepfather is Jeff Smith, who played running back for Nebraska in the early 1980s and then for the Kansas City Chiefs. His cousin is Roger Craig, who also played at Nebraska and was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers.

Campbell said Hall reminds him of past running backs he’s coached — Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns (at Toledo) and David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears (at ISU).

Hall had 18 carries through the first five games last season, then burst onto the scene with 132 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia.

“There was a little bit of a process to get there, and that’s the natural course for any true freshman,” Campbell said. “Boy, when he got his opportunity at West Virginia last year to really take hold of it, he made the most of his opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.”

Hall has built on his accomplishments of a year ago, and Campbell said his dedication to training while campus was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason.

And, no, Hall doesn’t slough off when he’s not running the ball. He’s given up no sacks on 42 snaps as a pass-protector, according to Pro Football Focus, and has caught 13 passes for 61 yards.

“I think the mental maturity has been his growth, how he approaches his day-to-day operation,” Campbell said. “I thought by midseason a year ago he really started to understand how to practice and what accountability looked like and felt like. He’s been able to carry that over in terms of how he’s practiced and how he’s gone about his business, really taking his talent and applying it to being the best football player he can be.”

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