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Harty: Will Canzeri step in at RB Saturday?

[ 0 ] October 16, 2012 |

Playing big-time college football is a big-time sacrifice in so many ways.

You sacrifice your body and your time all for the good of the team.

Assuming he plays Saturday against Penn State, Iowa sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri will be sacrificing more than that.

With six games already played, Canzeri will be giving up half of his regular season. That’s <AF>1/8<XA> of his entire college eligibility.

It might not sound like much of a sacrifice now with Iowa sitting on top of the Big Ten Legends Division standings at 2-0 and 4-2 overall.

Athletes, even student-athletes, are constantly told to live in the moment. They’re told the team always comes first and that it’s all hands on deck during times of adversity.

Iowa likely will be without two of its top three running backs for the Penn State game, which certainly would qualify as adversity.

“We have a very limited pool of guys right now, so I think it’s realistic to think that he’s thick into it and it’s good news,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Canzeri on Tuesday at his weekly news gathering. “I’m using it in some ways like the cavalry is coming.”

The cavalry is needed because current starting running back Mark Weisman is nursing an ankle injury and is doubtful for Saturday’s game. Original starter Damon Bullock also is doubtful because of reoccurring symptoms from a concussion, which he sustained against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15.

The hope was to redshirt Canzeri, who has been recovering from a knee injury that happened in the spring. He’s been medically cleared for about a month and there has been growing speculation since the Sept. 22 Central Michigan game that Canzeri would play.

Ferentz was asked Tuesday how tough the decision is to pull a redshirt off a player midway through the season.

“Well, it’s not that fun,” Ferentz said. “We are playing for today. He’s been bugging me for a month now, over a month, to get on the field. So there is no decision right now. We have a limited amount of guys, and we are trying to win games.”

It’d be different if Canzeri didn’t want to sacrifice half a season of eligibility for the good of the team. Then Ferentz would have a decision to make, a tough and delicate decision that some might not agree with.

But if Canzeri doesn’t care about losing six games, then go for it.

“Jordan wants to go, and he’s wanted to go,” Ferentz said.

It’s hard to see Ferentz forcing a kid to play who doesn’t want to because Ferentz isn’t dealing with professionals but rather student-athletes. You’d also have to wonder about a kid’s frame of mind if he’s playing against his wishes.

Canzeri also played an abbreviated season last year, appearing in seven games as a true freshman. The Troy, N.Y., native started against Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl in another all-hands-on-deck situation and finished with 58 rushing yards and 28 receiving yards.

Canzeri didn’t play in four of the first six games last season and he also missed the final two regular-season games because of an injury. He also had no carries in four of the seven games in which he played last season.

If he plays this season, Canzeri would reach the halfway point of his college career missing nearly half of the games. That’s sacrificing a whole bunch for the good of team.

You just hope for his sake that Canzeri will get to make a significant contribution if he does play this season. It would be a waste to pull the redshirt and then only use him in a spot duty.

True freshman Greg Garmon is listed as the starter heading into Saturday, but he’s only carried 14 times for 35 yards this season. Garmon played in both overtime sessions of Saturday’s 19-16 victory at Michigan State and did what was asked of him by not turning the ball over.

“We kind of lost our running attack at that stage,” Ferentz said. “But for him to go in, a year ago he’s in Erie, (Pa.) playing high school football and doing well.

“But that was a pretty tough circumstance, bad weather and the opponent was pretty tough. He did his job. So he allowed us to keep fighting, which is good.”

The coaches also could pull the redshirt off true freshman running back Michael Malloy, but Canzeri makes more sense because of his experience, if appearing in seven games counts.

Junior fullback Brad Rogers could be another option, but then you wouldn’t have him clearing the way as a blocker. Iowa also could pass on most plays, but that’s a scary proposition, considering how much the passing attack has sputtered and considering how tough Penn State is on defense.

It seems unlikely that Garmon could handle the load all by himself, so he’s probably going to need help Saturday. There is a chance Weisman could play, but if not, Canzeri is the next man in.

College football is big business and Canzeri was brought here on scholarship to get an education and also to help Iowa win games.

He might be asked to help Saturday, or in other words, make a sacrifice.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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