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Ferentz cautiously optimistic about running back depth

[ 0 ] June 25, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. Mark Weisman was sporting a Chicago Blackhawks T-shirt Tuesday, in honor of the National Hockey League’s freshly minted Stanley Cup champs.

“It was great fun to watch,” said Iowa’s junior running back, who is from the Chicago suburban of Buffalo Grove, Ill. “They showed a lot of heart out there.”

Weisman, who was at the United Center to see the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, plays football with a physical, hard-nosed, hockey approach. He also played hurt for much of 2012 because of a lack of healthy Hawkeye running backs.

Mark Weisman transferred from the Air Force Academy.

Mark Weisman transferred from the Air Force Academy.

But going into 2013, a position that has been a black hole of injuries and defections in recent seasons has the potential to be a position of depth.

“We’re not there yet,” Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “It’s not August yet.”

Weisman, who rushed for 815 yards, and Damon Bullock, who had 513, were the best — and about the only — options in a 4-8 season. Freshman Greg Garmon had 122 yards in 38 carries, but was injured and later left the program.

Barkley Hill was lost for the 2012 season with a knee injury suffered in the second open scrimmage of fall drills. Michael Malloy missed the season after suffering a knee injury in spring drills. And Jordan Canzeri was redshirted after a knee injury in spring drills.

“Hopefully we’ll have a little bit more depth where (Weisman and Bullock) don’t have to shoulder the whole load,” Ferentz said. “The way it worked out last year, because of some injury situations, when Mark had to go, he was basically the only guy we had back there. Hopefully we’ll have a little more balance back there.

“I think that was one good thing about spring ball. It looked like we had a chance of at least three (with Canzeri), and we got Mike Malloy back for that last week. Even though he only practiced three times, he did some things that were encouraging.”

The return of Canzeri, who will be a redshirt sophomore, was one of the bright spots of the spring. Malloy, a redshirt freshman who will go on scholarship this fall, drew some attention with several carries during the final spring scrimmage. And Hill, also a redshirt freshman, is poised to compete for playing time this fall.

“Hill is fine,” Ferentz said. “I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. He said the soreness is out of his knee. We have an opportunity to have more depth, certainly. That would be a real help to us. It’s something that made it a real challenge last year.”

Hill, who had been impressive in fall drills before his injury, and Malloy may not be the only new faces in Iowa’s backfield rotation.

“We have three young guys coming in that are intriguing as well,” Ferentz said. “So it will be fun to see them on the field.”

Iowa signed three running backs in February — Jonathan Parker from St. Louis, Mo.; LeShun Daniels, Jr., from Warren, Ohio; and Akrum Wadley, from Newark, N.J.

Weisman transferred to Iowa from the Air Force Academy, and was competing for time at fullback. He stepped in to replace Bullock at tailback when Bullock had concussion issues, and that is where he’ll see most of his snaps in 2013.

“We’ve got great depth at running back, and we’re going to need it, because injuries happen as we saw last year,” Weisman said. “The next man in has always got to be ready to play.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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