Gest learning how to run with pace

Not long after Thursday’s game at Florida International was over, Deland McCullough pulled out his phone and started texting.

The Indiana running backs coach was fixed to a conversation with former pupil Jordan Howard, catching up and rehashing the evening’s 34-13 win.

Howard, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears after his junior season last year, was particularly impressed with freshman Cole Gest.

“Man, Cole runs with a lot of velocity,’ Howard texted McCullough.

While that may be true, McCullough responded, Gest is still learning how to run with pace. Gest flashed his speed during his college debut, but he occasionally looked like a pinball bouncing around the backfield.

He carried the ball six times for 17 yards, breaking a long run of 11 yards, while also fumbling on one particular run in the third quarter.

On one hand, Gest showed the potential that makes his coaches believe he add a dynamic presence to the IU backfield this fall. On the other, he showed that there are still plenty of teaching points that McCullough and company must cover.

At one point in McCullough’s text conversation with Howard, the former All-Big Ten rusher made a comparison that McCullough is now using as a teaching point, comparing Gest’s straight line approach to what Indiana received from Devine Redding early last season.

“I screenshotted that and sent that to everybody,” McCullough said. “Devine said, ‘There it is!’ Cole was taking it like guys were getting on him. It’s like, ‘No, man. You’re right where you want to be. You’re just too fast. You’re hitting holes so fast, you don’t have pace. You don’t get the chance to see the hole develop. That’s something that he’s growing into.”

So the next few weeks will see Gest trying to strike the balance between feeling that pace and utilizing his natural acceleration.

In that regard, McCullough saw breakthroughs during Tuesday morning’s practice when Gest ran a couple counter plays and power plays with a more refined approach.

“He came out there rolling,” McCullough said. “It’s exciting to see him just pacing himself a little bit more so that when he’s able to show that explosiveness, you get to see it in full.”

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns is also convinced Gest will find the appropriate stride once he settles down and settles into a role rotating into IU’s backfield.

He’ll get another opportunity in Saturday’s 4 p.m. home opener against Ball State.

“That’s one thing we love about him,” Johns said. “He’s going to hit it downhill and he’s going to hit it fast. Now, as a young freshman, just learn how to settle down, use pace then hit the hole. I think he’ll come to that.”


  1. You didn’t have to be a NFL running back or college football coach do see that Gest was really fast/quick, but also that he was hitting to LOS too fast. When he learns how to wait until the hole opens, he’s going to break more than one run for a long TD. He is a very exciting young talent, and he’s obviously got a great coach teaching him how to be an effective running back. McCullough is an excellent running backs coach!

  2. Gest is fast and quick but must learn to wait for the holes to develop without waiting for the holes to open. There is a fine line for RBs when it comes to hitting the right pace before turning it on when hitting the hole. You could see Redding develop that as last season went on. It is a matter of Gest getting to trust the OL knowing the holes will be there if he gives them time.

    Playing running back isn’t as easy as just running the ball. Some plays require you to hit the LOS quickly while other plays require you to be patient and hit the hole as it opens up. Gest has the special speed and will learn the pace necessary for this offense.

  3. Gest has Shane Wynn/Tevin Coleman type of speed and acceleration. I’d love to see him split out wide with some bubble screens. He get’s a step on the defense, no one’s catching him. We had to suffer through several games last year of Devine Redding running into to the backs of his lineman before he figured it out. Hopefully, Gest is a quick learner.

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