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Ferentz: Two true freshmen could play at running back

[ 0 ] April 14, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — There’s a running back door open so wide on the Iowa football team that two freshmen easily could fit through it — even at the same time.

That was the word from coach Kirk Ferentz after watching his team participate in a scrimmage watched by about 5,000 fans Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.

He said not just one, but possibly two true freshmen could catch passes and take handoffs from quarterback James Vandenberg next season.

“When Jordan (Canzeri) got injured, that increased the odds for everyone,” Ferentz said. “We’ll give everyone an opportunity to help out the team — at some positions more than others — and running back is a spot where people will have that opportunity.”

Translated, that means Barkley Hill, of Cedar Falls, and Greg Garmon, of Erie, Pa., will have just as good of a chance to play Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field as current roster players Damon Bullock and De’Andre Johnson.

“We’ll encourage both of those players to get ready and do the best they can this summer,” Ferentz said. “We’ll evaluate them in August … and I can envision both of them playing next year.”

That’s what Hill wants to hear.

“I’m a kid that wants to play right away this fall,” he said from the sidelines Saturday. “I’m going to get physically and mentally prepared to do that this summer.”

Hill is a 6-foot, 200-pounder who rushed for 2,493 yards and 40 touchdowns last season.

“Everybody has a shot to play, that’s what they’re saying,” Hill said. “Of course that excites me.”

Garmon stayed in Erie, but Hill walked the sidelines during most of the festivities.

He saw Bullock and Johnson share the carries and run short passing routes during an unscripted scrimmage that lasted about 30 minutes.

He heard murmurs from the crowd as each had highlight-reel rushes against a defense that wasn’t playing much more than touch football — especially during Bullock 85-yard sprint through the middle of the line.

“Today was OK for them,” Ferentz said. “On a positive front, they’ve improved every day. We lost Jordan a while ago, and it seems like the guys picked up the pace even more.

“They made some errors, especially Damon. I hope we get those out of our system during this period and in August, because we’re not there yet.”

As advertised, the offense under new coordinator Greg Davis moved quickly, starting from the shotgun formation and using a no-huddle approach.

“I’m excited about that part,” Hill said. “They’re going to throw to the backs — I like that.”

They’re throwing to the backs because Bullock catches passes so well that he alternated between running back and receiver last season.

“When we had Shonn (Greene) and Marcus (Coker), we didn’t do as much of that,” Ferentz said, “but I think both Damon and (Johnson) have that capability — like Albert Young did.

“We won’t only use them out of the backfield, but we could use them out wide a little. We’ll do what our players allow us to do.”

It’s all about getting running backs into open spaces.

“I can’t wait to get down here full time,” Hill said. “Just being here today makes me want to work harder in the off-season.

“Everybody’s got a shot to play.”

Surprise commitment: Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz received a surprise shortly after the two-hour workout. He got a commitment from Delano Hill, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety from Detroit.

“He told me that was spectacular,” Hill said after walking up to Ferentz near the Iowa sidelines. “He said he was happy.”

Hill said he chose Iowa over offers from Indiana, Illinois, Cincinnati and Syracuse.

“Family atmosphere,” he said after his brief on-field conversation with Ferentz.

He’s eligible for the fall of 2013.

Davis update: Receiver Keenan Davis participated minimally because of an injured ankle.

“I didn’t anticipate Keenan back today or next week, so that was a positive,” Ferentz said.

Knee injuries kept backup receiver John Chelf and backup offensive lineman Casey McMillan on the sidelines.

Fullback Brad Rogers went through the workout, but didn’t play in the scrimmage because of an undisclosed injury.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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