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Iowa football: An analysis of the running backs

[ 0 ] August 19, 2013 |

Chris White has reason to be excited about the depth at running back on the Iowa football team, especially since freshman LeShun Daniels Jr. is in the mix for playing time.

But the first-year Hawkeyes assistant also has reason to be cautious about his optimism given how past circumstances have changed in a hurry.

“I think we have a lot of depth right now, which is a good thing,” White said. “I suppose we haven’t had that in the past from what I’ve heard. I’ve heard that story.”

That story is the bizarre stretch of attrition that has plagued the Iowa running back position during much of Kirk Ferentz’s tenure as head coach. The combination of injuries, disciplinary matters and personal issues has caused the demise of many Iowa running backs, especially since the start of 2010.

White is in his first season as the Iowa running backs coach. He brings a new outlook and new energy to a position that is loaded with options.

Iowa running backs (clockwise from top) Damn Bullock, Michael Malloy, Jordan Canzeri, and Mark Weisman stop for pictures during media day on Thursday afternoon, August 8, 2013. (Benjamin Roberts / HawkCentral.com)

Iowa running backs (clockwise from top) Damon Bullock, Michael Malloy, Jordan Canzeri, and Mark Weisman stop for pictures during media day on Thursday afternoon, August 8, 2013. (Benjamin Roberts / HawkCentral.com)

Mark Weisman went from being Iowa’s starting fullback at the beginning of last season to its featured running back. He led the team with 815 rushing yards, while Damon Bullock rushed for 513 despite missing six games because of injuries.

“We’re going to use Mark in a lot of different roles this year, and the same with Damon,” White said. “If we can stay healthy, we’re going to be real solid.”

RUNNING BACKS

Little went right for the Iowa offense last season, but when healthy, Mark Weisman (6-0, 236, Jr.) and Damon Bullock (6-0, 200, Jr.) were two bright spots. They combined for 1,328 rushing yards last season, bringing contrasting running styles. Weisman, who transferred from Air Force, is more of a bruiser, while Bullock is more of a cruiser.

“We kind of forget we’re in competition sometimes,” he said. “We’re all here doing our thing on the football field. We get off (the field) and we joke around and everything. It’s all a family-type deal.”

Iowa is better equipped to handle injuries at the position now that sophomore Jordan Canzeri (5-9, 192, So.) is healthy and Daniels has emerged. Canzeri was withheld from competition last season while recovering from a knee injury. He appeared in seven games in 2011, and his first start came against Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl, when he rushed for 58 yards and caught six passes for 28 yards.

Redshirt freshman Michael Malloy (6-0, 215, Fr.) is yet another option at running back. The former Sioux City Heelan star doesn’t show any effects from the knee injury that caused him to miss most of his senior season in 2011. Malloy rushed for over 1,600 yards as a junior in high school. He also won state title in the 400-meters as a junior in high school and holds the school record in that event with a time 48.58 seconds.

LeShun Daniels Jr. (6-0, 215, Fr.) looked bigger than his listed weight as he plowed through defenders during the Kids Day practice this past Saturday. Daniels rushed for 1,614 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a high school senior in Warren, Ohio.

“He’s a beast out there,” Weisman said of Daniels, who first committed to Boston College before switching to Iowa. “He’s a really good running back and he’s going to help this team a lot.”

There is even more help at running back should Iowa need it, with Barkley Hill (6-0, 218, Fr.) and true freshmen Jonathan Parker (5-8, 175) and Akrum Wadley (5-11, 170) rounding out the list of eight running backs on scholarship. Hill was redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury early in practice. The former Cedar Falls star also missed the Kids Day practice with an undisclosed injury, but he rushed for over 6,000 yards in high school. Barring another rash of attrition, Parker and Wadley likely will be redshirted.

FULLBACKS

This position doesn’t do much besides block, but that is essential in making Iowa’s power running game successful. Adam Cox (5-11, 215, So.) and Macon Plewa (6-2, 234, So.) both joined the program as walk-ons, but now have a chance to start entering their third years.

Cox rushed for 1,794 yards and scored 34 touchdowns as a high school senior in Illinois, while Plewa was an all-state linebacker in Wisconsin. He shifted from linebacker to fullback shortly after last season.

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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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