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Iowa football: Kirk Ferentz weighs options at running back

[ 0 ] September 18, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – That Iowa running back position about which fans and coaches were concerned, suddenly is becoming an offensive strength.

At least from a body count perspective.

What has happened in the program’s medical quarters has resulted in such a surprising turnaround that even coach Kirk Ferentz had a fingers-crossed outlook Tuesday when asked to evaluate the position after Damon Bullock’s head clears to the point where it passes medical muster.

“If we have more than two (healthy backs), we’ll have more than we know what to do with,” Ferentz said during his weekly press conference. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” (David Purdy / Register photo)

Of at least seven ball carriers listed on Iowa’s roster, Bullock is the only one who has been ruled out of Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against 1-1 Central Michigan at Kinnick Stadium. And that was Tuesday. His condition could change by the end of the week.

“Damon is doubtful,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see how the week pans out.”

The 2-1 Hawkeyes’ season rushing leader still is recovering from a knee-to-helmet collision that happened in the second quarter of last Saturday’s 27-16 victory against Northern Iowa. Greg Garmon, who left the game with an injured right elbow, is questionable, although he hasn’t been scratched.

“You can never have enough guys to hand the ball off to,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “From what it sounds like, we’re getting guys back.”

Here’s Saturday’s availability rundown, starting with:

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THE IFFY:

DAMON BULLOCK

The sophomore wobbled off the field Saturday, but Ferentz stopped short Tuesday of saying he has a concussion.

“He took a pretty good shot,” Ferentz said. “If you slow (the video) down, he took a good hit. That’s part of playing football.”

Ferentz said Bullock will have to pass a battery of tests this week before being cleared to play.

“The medical staff will tell us when they feel it’s prudent for him to return,” Ferentz said.

Bullock’s 280 rushing yards includes 150 in the season-opening win against Northern Illinois.

“We’re optimistic,” Ferentz said, however adding a note of caution. “We’re not going to put him on the field until it’s more than safe.”

GREG GARMON

The freshman had his elbow iced after the Northern Iowa game.

“He’s probably got a better chance than Damon does,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see how the next couple days go.”

JONATHAN GIMM

He’s listed as a reserve fullback, but unlikely to carry the ball unless there are further injuries.

Gimm, a senior, has played in 33 career games, but mostly as a blocker and on special teams. He has no rushes, and one reception for five yards.

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THE LIKELY:

JORDAN CANZERI

The No. 1 replacement for departed Marcus Coker before undergoing ACL surgery in April, Canzeri was cleared medically to play last Saturday against Northern Iowa.

“He’s been cleared now, so it’s a matter of when is he ready to play,” Ferentz said. “Part of that is a players’ level of confidence.”

Canzeri started in the Insight Bowl loss against Oklahoma, rushing for 58 yards on 22 carries. He also caught six passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.

“Jordan looks good,” center James Ferentz said. “He’s ready to step in whenever needed. When his number is called, I know he’ll be ready.”

MICHAEL MALLOY

His time is coming, Ferentz said of the walk-on from Sioux City.

“He would have played (last) Saturday, but last week at this time he turned up sick,” the coach said. “I thought it was one of those 24-hour things, but it just went on and on.

“I think they were worried about an appendicitis, but it cleared up. He’s fine.”

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THE CERTAIN:

MARK WEISMAN

Iowa fans learned Saturday what Weisman’s teammates have known for a while.

“He’s a strength freak,” Vandenberg said.

Taking the primary rushing role after Bullock and Garmon were injured Saturday, Weisman responded with 113 rushing yards on 24 carries.

Weisman is listed as Saturday’s starter.

“Has my life changed? Nah, I’m still incognito,” he said Tuesday.

BRAD ROGERS

Finally healthy after a career of injuries, Rogers is Saturday’s starting fullback – a role he lost to Weisman, then re-gained when Weisman shifted to tailback.

“I just play where they tell me to,” Rogers said.

At times Saturday, the 230-pound Rogers lined up at fullback in the same backfield as the 235-pound Weisman.

“That’s a lot of muscle back there,” Vandenberg said. “You’ve got to like that.”

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That’s seven legitimate backfield possibilities, once Bullock is cleared to play. It’s the most since. . .

“Since Freddie Russell played here?” James Ferentz responded Tuesday, referring to the former NFL back that played at Iowa between 2001-03. “It’s nice to have healthy guys again.”

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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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