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Harty: Running back recruit fits Iowa’s style

[ 0 ] February 1, 2013 |

So much of what we do in life comes down to finding the right fit.

Whether it’s something insignificant such as buying clothes or something meaningful like picking where to play college football, you can just tell when it feels right.

The Iowa football team will have at least 16 recruits and probably closer to 20 sign letters of intent Wednesday, which marks the start of the national signing period.

Every one of the recruits must believe that Iowa is the right fit and that he is the right fit for Iowa or they wouldn’t be planning to seal their relationship.

With running back LeShun Daniels, though, it’s easy to see him fitting into Iowa’s program.

“I know that they like to run the football and they have a physical running game, and Iowa feels that I can help them accomplish that,” Daniels said Friday afternoon in a phone interview.

Daniels wants to start helping as a true freshman next fall but is keeping an open mind.

“I’m trying to do everything in my power to be able to give myself an opportunity to play (next season), Daniels said. “But if it doesn’t happen, oh well, I’ll just work harder.”

Daniels isn’t as heralded as last year’s running back recruit Greg Garmon, but Daniels is more suited for what Iowa likes to do, which is grind between the tackles. Daniels weighs about 218 pounds but still is fast enough to run sprints for his high school track team in Warren, Ohio.

“I think he’s a classic downhill runner,” said former Illinois star and retired NFL running back Howard Griffith, who now works for the Big Ten Network. “He runs tough inside the tackles. That’s the type of back that not just Iowa needs.

“I like those types of backs; one cut, not a lot of dance and just get downfield.”

Garmon, on the other hand, weighed less than 200 pounds as a true freshman last season. He didn’t seem comfortable running between the tackles during his limited playing time. He has since transferred to Butte College in northern California to continue his playing career.

Iowa was deficient in many ways last season when it finished 4-8 and at times made completing a forward pass seem almost as difficult as completing a mission to Mars.

But there was one brief stretch — the back-to-back victories over Minnesota and Michigan State to begin Big Ten play — when Iowa flourished with 235-pound sophomore Mark Weisman running behind a healthy offensive line. That was a decent Iowa team that plowed through the Gophers on Sept. 29 and through the Spartans two weeks later after having a bye week.

It probably was the only time last season when the Iowa offense, which produced just seven touchdown passes, had an identity under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

The problems at receiver have made restocking that position a priority during this recruiting period.

But needless to say, especially to Iowa fans, you can never have enough running backs.

Garmon was the latest in a long and disturbing list of running backs who have quit the Iowa team with eligibility remaining.

Daniels is a nice replacement, though, at least on paper. He rushed for more than 1,600 yards as a senior last season and did so while playing against quality competition in talent-rich Ohio.

“I say no question about it, he fits in nicely,” Griffith said of Daniels. “And when you think about it, finding the running backs hasn’t been the issue. They’ve been able to find the right guys. Those guys just haven’t been able to stay healthy.

“So hopefully, this young man and the rest of their backfield can continue to stay healthy.”

Rob Howe, who runs a recruiting website called HawkeyeInsider.com, also thinks Daniels fits with what Iowa likes to do under coach Kirk Ferentz.

Howe compared Daniels to former Iowa running back Marcus Coker, who led the Hawkeyes in rushing during the 2011 season with 1,384 yards before being suspended for the Insight Bowl. Howe said Daniels and Coker, who has since transferred to Stony Brook, are similar not only in their running styles, but also in how they were perceived in high school.

Daniels is ranked as a three-star recruit by Scout.com, as was Coker in 2010.

“He fits Iowa,” Howe said of Daniels. “He’s the type of kid that can achieve beyond what his star rating is because he’s coming into the right system.”

Daniels also used to fit with the program at Boston College, so much so that he was committed to the school until it went through a coaching change shortly after last season.

“I had a pretty good relationship with them,” Daniels said of the previous coaching staff at Boston College. “So them getting fired opened up some other options.

“So then Iowa came in a like a week or so later. I was just like, ‘What the heck, I’ll go take a visit out there.’ And I just had a real good connection with everything over there.”

That’s another way of saying Iowa was the right fit.

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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