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Iowa in the market for running back recruits

[ 4 ] October 4, 2010 |

Running back wasn’t supposed to be a high priority on Iowa’s shopping list this recruiting season.

The Hawkeyes had nine scholarship running backs lined up for their 2010 roster by this time a year ago, and Paki O’Meara was the only senior in the group. Then Jeff Brinson and Josh Brown left the program in the spring, Brandon Wegher left the team during camp, Jewel Hampton went down with a knee injury in week 3 and the Hawkeyes suddenly were rearranging their running back plans both in the short and long term.

Iowa already has secured a commitment from one running back. The Hawkeyes snagged Wisconsin prep Melvin Gordon, but coach Kirk Ferentz said Iowa will sign “at least two” running backs in February.

“I think we have to or we’d be totally foolish,” Ferentz said last week.

The Hawkeyes appear to be zeroing in on a pair of four-star running backs in the Midwest — Darrian Miller and Rodney Coe.

Rivals.com ranks Miller the No. 1 running back in Missouri, and network analyst Jeremy Crabtree Tweeted this after watching the 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster from Blue Springs in person Friday: “I’ll stand up on the table and say Darrian Miller is a top 100 recruit. The guy is unstoppable when he puts the pads on.”

Miller piled up 259 total yards and four touchdowns Friday in a victory against Raymore-Peculiar. He scored on an 82-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

Miller was in Iowa City on Saturday night. He watched the Hawkeyes beat Penn State 24-3 in Kinnick Stadium.

“It was definitely a new experience,” he said. “I hadn’t been to a stadium that packed and that passionate. It was definitely a good time.”

Miller said he was most impressed by Iowa’s coaches. He listed the Hawkeyes as the leader for his services entering the visit and said Iowa remains in front of a pack that also includes Kansas, Minnesota and Memphis. Miller said he’ll probably wait until after his high school season ends to make a decision on where he’ll play next year. He’s on track to graduate from Blue Springs in December and intends to enroll in college in January.

Coe, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound bruiser from Edwardsville (Ill.) High School is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 10 running back in the country. He has nearly two dozen scholarship offers from BCS schools including Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Nebraska, Oregon and USC.

“They’re both interesting prospects,” Crabtree said of the two recruits. “Darrian is a more true running back. Rodney brings the potential to play a number of different positions if things don’t work out at the running back spot. Those are things I look at and get excited about if he ends up at Iowa because Coe could be used in a number of different ways, and Iowa would find ways to utilize those skills.

“I think both of those kids would be very nice fits for what Iowa expects and wants out of its running backs. Coe could be more of a bruiser, a guy who runs between the tackles, and Miller could be a guy who really explodes and gets the ball in space or maybe in screen situations or (catching) the ball out of the backfield. He’s tough, too, and can run between the tackles. I think both of those guys are really nice fits for what Iowa does in their offensive system if they end up there.”

Robinson and Hampton will be juniors next season for the Hawkeyes. Iowa pulled the redshirt off Marcus Coker against Ball State, and the Hawkeyes haven’t yet used true freshman De’Andre Johnson this season. Brad Rogers, who has played running back, appears to be the heir to Brett Morse at fullback. Gordon will enter the backfield equation after the ink dries on his letter of intent in February.

Then there’s Wegher, whose long-term status with the program remains uncertain.

“In my mind, he’s not on our team right now,” Ferentz said last week of Wegher. “If he decides to come back at some point, we’ll have to have a discussion on (how many running backs to sign in 2011). But right now we’re in a mode where it’s next man in, and that’s what we’re doing. I think this year, (like in) ’04, it seems like almost every year now is an illustration where we better load up on backs.

“I thought we were close, and then the rug got pulled out. We may recruit eight backs if we get the chance this year. I don’t think we can get eight to come here. Some schools can do that, but we can’t. Literally, we better not assume anything right now.”

FRENCH CUTS LIST TO SIX: Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior Christian French eliminated six schools from his list, leaving Iowa and five other schools to compete for his services. French, ranked by Rivals.com as one of the top 100 players in the country, is considering the Hawkeyes, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Missouri. Iowa is recruiting the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder as a receiver.

FRIDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Iowa quarterback recruit Jake Rudock turned in another monster performance in front of a national television audience. Rudock’s Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas squad — ranked as the No. 1 team in Florida and No. 13 nationally by USA Today — beat No. 6 Camden County (Ga.) 42-28 Friday night on ESPNU.

Rudock was razor sharp, completing 15-of-20 passing for a school-record 333 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. Rudock broke the single-game record previously held by Dan Shula, the grandson of the legendary former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula.

Rudock threw touchdown passes of 41 and 80 yards, respectively, to Miami recruit Phillip Dorsett and connected with Florida State recruit Rashad Greene on a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Jake was in a zone,” Dorsett told the Miami Herald. “He was expecting me and Rashad would get tight coverage, but he did a good job.”

For the season, Rudock is 46-of-67 passing for 979 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Plug those numbers into the formula for a college pass efficiency rating and it comes out to 240.65.

Iowa tight end recruit Ray Hamilton caught four passes for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Strongsville (Ohio) High School’s victory against Medina. Hamilton has 30 catches for 443 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Gordon carried 12 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns in Kenosha Bradford’s 69-47 win against Muskego. He has 69 carries for 869 yards (a 12.6-yard average) and 17 touchdowns this season.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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