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Iowa’s running back pool is dwindling

[ 0 ] October 16, 2012 |

Pat Harty contributed to this report.
The Iowa running back shuffle — on hold the last few weeks — is back on.

Leading rusher Mark Weisman was hurt on his game-tying touchdown run Saturday at Michigan State. He was in a protective boot after the game.

The injury was called a sprain and Weisman has been cleared to play. But Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz doesn’t expect to use him Saturday against Penn State.

“He’s not at risk,” Ferentz said. “It’s can he play effectively, and that’s the big if right now.

“If we was our left guard, maybe it would be different. But it’s tough for a guy to just gut it up and play running back. It’s really hard.”

Weisman has gained 100 yards or more in each of the past four games. He leads Iowa with 631 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

The back he replaced, sophomore Damon Bullock, still is out after suffering a concussion against Northern Iowa.

Bullock had been cleared last week but did not make the trip to East Lansing, Mich., after experiencing “reoccurring complications.”

“Doesn’t look like he’ll play this week,” Ferentz said. “We’re in a real gray area issue. It’s not a black and white thing. It’s not like a broken bone.”

True freshman Greg Garmon — who has 35 yards on 14 carries — is listed as the starter. He came into the game Saturday in overtime when Weisman got hurt and had 6 yards on four carries.

“A nice run would have been good, but ball security is critical, especially at that juncture,” Ferentz said. “He did his job, so he allowed us to keep fighting, which is good. He’ll be better this week.”

Behind Garmon are sophomore Jordan Canzeri and true freshman Michael Malloy — neither of whom have played a down this season. Both are eligible to redshirt.

“We are playing for today,” Ferentz said. “We have a limited amount of guys, and we are trying to win games.”

Ferentz added that Canzeri, who was cleared to play a month ago, has been “bugging” him to get on the field.

“He wants to go,” Ferentz said. “He’s been bugging me for a month, over a month, to get on the field.”

Canzeri started at the Insight Bowl last year and had 58 yards on 22 carries.

OTHER INJURIES: Ferentz confirmed that offensive lineman Austin Blythe should rejoin the rotation on the offensive line.

Blythe, who started the first four games of the season at right guard, has been out with an injury. He made the trip to Michigan State, but did not play.

“I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he’s back with us,” Ferentz said.

Cornerback B.J. Lowery is also expected to be ready to play. He also missed the previous two games with an injury.

“B.J. is back with us and I think everything’s fine there,” Ferentz said. “So happy about that.”

COTTON’S COMING ON: Junior receiver Jordan Cotton is considered one of the fastest players on the Iowa team and that was apparent against Michigan State on Saturday.

Cotton had a kickoff return for a touchdown erased by an illegal block, but he showed his speed by out-running the Michigan State defenders who were in pursuit.

“It’s just my instinct of being aware of where everyone is at on the field,” said Cotton, who is from Mount Pleasant. “There was some great blocking on that play, and I was just doing my job.”

It’s been well documented, including first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis saying it publicly, that Iowa needs more speed at the receiver position. However, that’s through no fault of Cotton, considering he was a state champion 400-meter hurdler in high school.

Fans also have voiced their frustration with the receivers on radio call-in shows and on Internet message boards.

“I don’t like listening to what the outsiders are saying,” Cotton said. “You’ve just got to keep doing your job and keep pushing forward and make the plays when your number is called.”

Cotton, who is the son of former Iowa fullback Marshall Cotton, has seen his role at receiver and as a kick returner increase recently. He said the kick return against Michigan State boosted his confidence even though it was called back.

“It gave me a lot of confidence and then it gave our whole unit a lot confidence, too, knowing that we can make an impact on the game and have that big play happen that we needed,” Cotton said.

BUCKEYES BE GONE: Iowa offensive lineman Andrew Donnal and his younger brother, Mark, grew up in Ohio and grew fond of the Ohio State Buckeyes while doing so.

But now in addition to Andrew playing football at Iowa, his younger brother has made a verbal commitment to play basketball at Michigan. Mark Donnal is a 6-foot-9 high school senior forward from Monclova, Ohio. He is a four-star recruit and is ranked among the top 100 players in the 2013 senior class.

“We definitely threw the family for a loop growing up as Ohio State fans,” Andrew Donnal said Tuesday. “We were getting everyone to convert to be Hawkeyes. And now everybody has got to be Wolverine fans.”

Andrew didn’t hesitate when asked who Mark would cheer for when Iowa plays Michigan in football. The teams will play Nov. 17 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“He’ll cheer for us,” said Andrew, a third-year sophomore. “And hopefully, he’ll still be cheering for his brother (when he goes to college).”

Andrew Donnal, who is listed at 6-7, is one of the tallest players on the Iowa team. He also lettered three times in basketball in high school as a center.

Andrew and his brother played on the varsity basketball team together when Andrew was a senior and Mark a freshman in high school.

“It’s amazing to be able to go back home and watch him play and just see how much he’s developed over the years,” Andrew Donnal said.

Andrew also has developed as an offensive lineman, starting the last two games at right guard for the injured Austin Blythe.

EXTRA DOWN: Penn State has gone for it on fourth down 20 times over six games this season. The Nittany Lions have converted 13 times.

“It’s pretty unusual,” Ferentz said. “It’s like, you know, if you’re a pitcher and the guy gets four strikes instead of three. It’s a little bigger of a challenge.”

Iowa is 4-for-7 on fourth down this season. The NCAA leader is Army with 23 fourth down attempts. Penn State is second.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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