My first thought while watching Barkley Hill be examined on the field Saturday was to write a column insisting that there is no curse on the Iowa running backs.
But then I remembered that I already had written that column after Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall both left the team this past winter after seasons in which they were both suspended.
Nothing has changed as far as the curse goes. It’s silly to think that way.
But if that’s how you choose to explain the bizarre plight of the Iowa running backs, then say to hello to Rod Serling for me in the Twilight Zone.
There really is no explanation for it besides some things just happen that defy explanation. It already had reached that point with the Iowa running backs, and now, unfortunately, Hill’s apparent knee injury adds to the weirdness.
Hill ran for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone on the play he was injured. Music was blaring over the loudspeaker throughout the open practice at Kinnick Stadium, but once it became apparent that Hill was injured, the music stopped and was replaced by an eerie silence.
Hill, who rushed for more than 6,000 yards at Cedar Falls High School, was examined on the field for several minutes before being carted away. The music resumed playing after Hill had departed.
I had just finished tweeting that Hill and fellow freshman running back Greg Garmon had both performed well on Saturday when Hill’s injury occurred near the end of practice, which lasted nearly three hours.
Hill had turned a screen pass into a substantial gain earlier in the scrimmage, and Garmon had shown the kind of athleticism that you would expect from a four-star recruit from Pennsylvania.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t meet with reporters after practice and new offensive coordinator Greg Davis didn’t know anything specific about Hill’s injury, or if he did, Davis wasn’t sharing it with the media.
“I saw the same thing you all saw,” Davis said to reporters. “You probably had a closer look than I did.
“But we haven’t heard. Kirk told the team he’s being examined now.”
You hate to speculate about an injury, but it’s always scary when a knee is involved because it seems more times than not the diagnosis is serious.
Just ask another Iowa running back, Jordan Canzeri, who’s been recovering since April from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
The good news for Hill is that if it is a season-ending injury he could be redshirted this season without losing any eligibility, and likewise for Canzeri.
And even without Hill and Canzeri, the situation still is nowhere close to being like 2004 when fifth-string walk-on Sam Brownlee came to the rescue at running back because everybody else was hurt.
Iowa would be in serious trouble if that were the case because the current defense is nowhere close to being like the 2004 star-studded Iowa defense, which was the driving force behind the Hawkeyes winning a share of the Big Ten title that season.
There still are enough healthy running backs to get the job done, but the situation would become critical if somebody else goes down.
Sophomore starter Damon Bullock isn’t going to make Iowa fans forget about Shonn Greene, or Brandon Wegher for that matter, but Bullock is no slouch, either. He’s got some wiggle in the open field, and he also can catch the football as Davis pointed out Saturday.
“All the tailbacks catch the ball well, but Damon Bullock catches like a receiver,” Davis said. “Obviously, I guess he was at one time. He’s got great hands.”
Bullock started his career at running back, switched to receiver early last season and then switched back to running back after the position was decimated by attrition.
Davis likes to use his running backs as receivers, so don’t be surprised if Bullock has at least 30 catches this season.
Garmon also looked comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield Saturday, but with him, the fun starts after he catches it.
He caught a short pass and then made several defenders miss in the open field while running almost from one side of the field to the other. Garmon is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds in the media guide, so he’s got good size, especially for somebody with his elusiveness.
This isn’t to suggest that Garmon is the second coming of former Iowa star running back Ronnie Harmon, but there are similarities between the two. Garmon also has a gift for making defenders miss in the open field and for finding holes when none seem to be there.
Former Sioux City Heelan standout Michael Malloy is another true freshman running back who flashed a few times Saturday.
And if the situation gets as bad as it did in 2004 when a fifth-team walk-on took the lead at running back, former Cedar Rapids Washington star Andre Dawson now is available to play that role.
Nothing against Sam Brownlee, but the 6-1, 220-pound Dawson seems more Big Ten ready in terms of his physical ability.
What’s happened to the Iowa running backs is strange and sad, but it is what it is. You accept the hand you’re dealt and move forward.
Or you can blame it on a ridiculous curse and wait for somebody else to go down.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football