BY RANDY PETERSON and RYAN SUCHOMEL
Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press Citizen
Iowa City, Ia. — For the second year in a row, Iowa will be without its top rusher at the Insight Bowl, a result of Tuesday’s announcement that Marcus Coker has been suspended.
The sophomore from Beltsville, Md., won’t make the trip for the Dec. 30 game against Oklahoma at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., coach Kirk Ferentz said in a press release.
The release cited unexplained “disciplinary reasons” for the decision.
“The issue involves University of Iowa policies, and has resulted in Coker being in violation of the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct,” according to the release.
A later release quoted Ferentz: “It is unfortunate that Marcus Coker will not be with the team for our bowl game. During the next 10 days, we will focus and continue to prepare the players that are able to participate.”
Coker recorded a team-best 1,384 rushing yards on 281 carries during the 7-5 regular season. He inherited the No. 1 running back role when Adam Robinson was suspended before last season’s Insight Bowl for a violation of team rules.
Searches of law enforcement records, including online court records, did not reveal any filings related to Coker.
The team travels to Arizona on Thursday. Ferentz will conduct his first press conference Friday.
Coker did not return an email and his mother did not return a telephone message. Neither athletic director Gary Barta nor associate athletic director Fred Mims immediately could be reached for clarification or comment.
Violations of the university’s code of conduct that involve breaking the law can lead to suspension, revocation of scholarship support and dismissal.
Any non-law breaking situation are categorized as Category II misconduct. Penalties in those situations can range from warning to suspension.
Coker responded to last year’s sudden promotion by becoming the bowl’s offensive Most Valuable Player after rushing 33 times for 219 yards in a 27-24 win against Misssouri.
The chance to fill Coker’s role will be determined during bowl practices. Redshirt freshman DeAndre Johnson has the next-most carries this season, with 18.
Freshman Mika’il McCall finished with 65 yards on 11 carries in the season-opener against Tennessee Tech, but missing the next nine games due to a broken ankle. He returned to play against Purdue, but Ferentz suspended him before the season-ending game at Nebraska for an unspecified reason.
Ferentz said at bowl press conference that McCall remains suspended and has not updated his status since.
Therefore, the Hawkeyes will scramble to find alternatives.
The most veteran player currently known to gbe eligible is junior Jason White. The Davenport North product has been listed at No. 2 on the depth chart, but has only three carries and two receptions.
Freshman running back Jordan Canzeri has battled a hamstring injury, but has had time to recover. He has rushed nine times for 56 yards, but hasn’t had a carry since the Indiana game on Oct. 22.
Damon Bullock, another freshman, hasn’t had a carry since rushing seven times against Louisiana-Monroe. He was moved to slot receiver for a little while, but has since returned to running back.
IOWA’S RECENT RUNNING BACK WOES
It hasn’t been easy to keep track of Iowa’s running back woes the last two seasons. Here is a recap:
2010: Entered the season with three options: Brandon Wegher, Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton. Wegher left for personal reasons during summer workouts and was granted a release from his scholarship before Christmas. Hampton, who had knee problems, transferred a few days later.
Robinson battled injuries and was suspended for the Insight Bowl after “failing to comply with team expectations and policies.” Robinson was later kicked off the team following a citation for marijuana possession. Marcus Coker’s big game in the Insight Bowl carried Iowa to a victory over Missouri.
2011: Back-up ball carrier Mika’il McCall broke his ankle in the season opener and missed most of the season. Then he was suspended for the Nebraska game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said at a bowl conference that McCall remains suspended, and has provided no updates since.
A hamstring injury has kept Jordan Canzeri off the field (nine carries). Other backups include Jason White (three carries) and De’Andre Johnson (no carries). Marcus Coker has handled 281 of the team’s 417 rushing attempts, but he was suspended Tuesday for the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl for “disciplinary reasons.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football