There are three Hawkeye running backs still standing, and all three are expected to test the turf Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
“I think all three of those guys will be in there and we’ll go from there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We expect them to do a good job out there. I’m sure we’ll have some ups and downs like all young players.”
Iowa opens the season against Northern Illinois. It has only been eight months since the Insight Bowl, but in that time the Hawkeyes have lost six running backs to transfer or injury.
Sophomore Damon Bullock (6-0, 195) is expected to start. He carried the ball 10 times last season for 20 yards. That passes for a grizzled veteran.
“He hasn’t played an awful lot,” Ferentz said. “Got a lot of work in the spring and really improved.”
True freshmen Greg Garmon (6-1, 200) and Michael Malloy (6-0, 180) also are in line to get carries.
Garmon, 4-star running back out of Erie, Pa., looked like a transformative player in the open scrimmage Aug. 18.
“Greg is a pretty dynamic player,” Ferentz said. “He’s a guy that can do a lot of things. Very quick, seems to have a real passion for playing. We’re excited about him.”
Malloy is a walk-on from Sioux City who originally had a scholarship until he ran afoul of the law before his senior season at Bishop Heelan. He also is coming off an ACL injury.
“I plan to play all three guys and see how they do,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know to what extent. We’ll see how that plays out.”
Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg wasn’t worried about which back lines up behind him Saturday.
“Damon has had a really nice camp, Garmon and Malloy have really jumped in and taken reps and done better than I could ever imagine doing as a freshman,” Vandenberg said. “Those guys have really grown up quick. I think we’ve all been really pleased with how they’ve done.”
Junior offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said the line is ready to open holes for whomever is at running back.
“It’s going to be a hard-nosed running game, like we’re used to,” Scherff said. “We’ve got some young backs, but we’re going to open the holes, trust them to do their job.”
Scherff pointed to last fall when Mika’il McCall came in the first game as a true freshman and ran for 61 yards on nine carries (before being injured).
“He was a young back, and he did a great job for us,” Scherff said. “I trust the other guys to do a great job, too.”
Iowa is going to have someone back there every game.
“We’re lucky enough that we’ve recruited enough guys that we can keep popping them in there,” Vandenberg said.
FOUR FRESHMEN: In addition to the running backs, punter Connor Kornbrath and reserve cornerback Kevin Buford also are listed on the depth chart as true freshmen.
Ferentz said Tuesday that those four were the only true freshmen he expects to play this year, barring unforeseen injuries.
BATTLE AT SS: Sophomore Nico Law and senior Tom Donatell are listed together at strong safety on the depth chart. Ferentz said whoever gets the start, both will still play Saturday.
“Anything you do, you always have to battle,” Law said. “Even when you’re starting, there’s always that battle with the man that is under you.”
WR DEPTH: Kevonte Martin-Manley said not only are reserve receiver Jacob Hillyer and Steve Staggs ready to play, they will definitely take some snaps from him and Keenan Davis on Saturday.
“I think we’ll roll a few more guys in than we have in the past,” Martin-Manley said. “I’m very confident.”
Davis caught 50 passes for 713 yards and Martin-Manley 30 for 323 last season. The only other returning receivers with catches are Staggs (5-45) and junior Jordan Cotton (1-4)
“All the receivers right now are doing really well,” Davis said. “During camp, we were all making plays. The guys off the bench were making plays.
“The next two guys come in and make the same plays we were making.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football