To the rest of the college football world, Jewel Hampton’s season-ending knee injury was news.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz made it official at his Tuesday news conference. The sophomore running back, the Hawkeyes’ best and most experienced, will undergo surgery on the ACL in his right knee. He’ll miss the season and take a red-shirt.
On his Facebook.com page Tuesday morning, Hampton posted, “Feels like two cars got into a accident into his heart, and his dreams (were) in the front seat!!!!”
Ferentz expects the surgery to take place by the end of this week. He hopes Hampton will be ready for spring practice but won’t put him through drills.
When the injury originally happened in late June, all parties involved held out hope it would heal. It was Hampton’s decision to try to work through it, Ferentz said. Medical staff told Ferentz that Hampton had a “legitimate shot” at 100 percent performance.
Then, in practice Aug. 13, Hampton reinjured the knee, which also was a possibility they discussed.
“Probably the only good thing I can say is it didn’t happen in the fifth game,” Ferentz said, referring to the red-shirt option that Hampton will take this season. “And the other good news is it’s a repairable injury, and he’ll be back full strength here. But it’s not going to be this fall.”
So, that was the news for the rest of the college football world. Inside the Kenyon Practice Facility, the No. 22 Hawkeyes have been without Hampton since Aug. 13, pretty much the entirety of fall camp. Hampton worked out once this week, but hasn’t practiced full contact for nearly three weeks.
Iowa’s players saw this coming. This wasn’t news to them.
“We’ve been practicing with the guys we’re going to be playing with,” junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “It’s not really a shock to us or something that we’re scrambling around about at the last minute trying to get ourselves together.
“These are the same guys we’ve been practicing with, the same guys who’ve gone through the intrasquad scrimmages with, so I think we’re all ready.”
Maybe they can put “These guys” on a T-shirt. You’ll definitely get to know their names in the coming weeks.
Iowa’s “running back by committee” leads off with junior Paki O’Meara and then goes to red-shirt freshman Adam Robinson and then true freshman Brandon Wegher, who’ll join wide receiver Keenan Davis and cornerback Micah Hyde as true freshmen who’ll play this season.
Red-shirt freshman Jeff Brinson suffered a sprained foot and started practice again this week. He’ll be slowed for Saturday’s season opener against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
O’Meara (5-foot-11, 211 pounds), who picked walking on at Iowa over a partial scholarship at UNI, is the veteran of the group, as veteran as a back with 21 career carries can be. He was awarded a scholarship last fall. He has 62 rushing yards and 33 receiving in his career.
He knows “walk-on,” even if it doesn’t fit anymore, brings up red flags for fans. They want pedigree, not walk-on.
“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” said O’Meara, who holds four school records at Cedar Rapids Washington, including rushing yards in a game (349). “The first game, the second game, hopefully that will prove it.”
Robinson (5-9, 205) went through an experiment at safety early in spring practice, but he quickly switched back. He rushed for 1,064 yards as a senior at Des Moines Lincoln.
“A lot of people are worried about my size and all that,” Robinson said when asked to describe what kind of running back he is. “I’m a smaller back, but I bring a lot of heart to the table and I have a never-give-up attitude. I’m really elusive, really quick.”
And suddenly very much in demand.