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How Hawkeye running backs are more than just their namesake

[ 0 ] August 17, 2013 |
In particular, Iowa running backs Damon Bullock, second from left, and Jordan Canzeri, far right, have shown the ability to create space in the passing game from the backfield. (Press-Citizen file photo)

In particular, Iowa running backs Damon Bullock, second from left, and Jordan Canzeri, far right, have shown the ability to create space in the passing game from the backfield. (Press-Citizen file photo)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa’s football team is poised to bring a no-huddle approach into the 2013 season, and there is some depth at running back. But the real key to moving the ball on offense could be the dual-threat success of Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri as rushers and receivers.

“It’s a big advantage for us,” second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.

As Davis looks to create deception and get as many playmakers as he can on the field at the same time, using Bullock and Canzeri out of the backfield is one option. Putting one of them in the huddle with leading returning rusher Mark Weisman is another.

“We’ve got several different packages where we have Weisman and Bullock on the field at the same time, or Weisman and Canzeri,” Davis said. “Where it’s, ‘OK, if we break the huddle and it looks like one back, Mark can play tailback. And we can only do that if those guys (Bullock and Canzeri) can catch the ball. If not, they’re just a guy standing out there. With the tight ends and backs we have, it gives us some opportunities to play a lot of guys, play fast and keep a lot of guys involved.”

Bullock caught 18 passes last season, even though he missed six games because of injury. That made him the team’s fourth-leading receiver, behind Kevonte Martin-Manley, Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz.

Canzeri caught six passes in the final game of the 2011 season, against Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl. The 5-foot-9, 192-pound sophomore didn’t play last year while recovering from knee surgery.

“The guys who have played in games, namely Mark, Damon and Jordan, I think they’re going to have plenty of reps,” said Chris White, Iowa’s first-year running backs coach. “What we’re trying to do is package everything where we can put them in the right spots and have the right plays called for them. I think we’ll do that.”

White said that Bullock and Canzeri remain running backs, first and foremost.

“They call it ‘running back’ for a reason,” White said. 

But they could also see a good number of passes thrown their way. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said backs will be part of the air game. He also said that Canzeri “is showing some things with ball skills that maybe we didn’t anticipate.”

White calls Canzeri a cerebral back.

“Not only is he talented, he’s a really good runner,” White said. “Some guys are natural runners. He’s one of them. They find the hole. Some guys don’t see it like he does. He’s got great vision, great balance.”

Bullock, the team’s No. 2 rusher last season with 513 yards in just six games, has improved his blocking to go with his other skills.

“He’s not as natural running the ball, but he’s really talented,” White said. 

Bullock is looking forward to being a versatile piece of Iowa’s offensive attack.

“I just love catching the ball,” the 6-foot, 200-pound junior said. “I did that a lot of that in high school. Helping out the offense any way I can is going to be great. Jordan, he can do the same thing. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Returning punts may be another option for Canzeri.

“I did it in high school,” Canzeri said. “I’d love to do it.”

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Category: Big Ten, 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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