Iowa RBs: Three better than two, but two out of three ain't bad

Published: August 24 2010 | 2:48 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 5:12 am in
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IOWA CITY -- As it stands right now, nothing definitive has been decided on Brandon Wegher's future.

The University of Iowa sophomore is an enrolled student and living in Iowa City. He hasn't practiced with the Hawkeyes since Aug. 7. Really, that's it.

That's where it stands. Until Wegher informs coach Kirk Ferentz he wants to return in 2010 or possibly redshirt, that might be where it stands for who knows how long.

Ferentz reiterated his stance on the matter during a radio interview last Friday night.

“We have nothing about strong feelings for Brandon," Ferentz said. "He’s a valued team member. We’re hopeful he chooses at some point to return to the team and get back to football. That being said, too, I’m totally respectful of his intentions and desires. I think he needs a little time and space right now to sort a few things out.”

During Iowa's media day Aug. 6, Wegher spoke of confidence, preparation and shot down rumors about his academic standing. He left camp after practice Aug. 7 and hasn't returned to the team, which is now in a regular-season practice mode.

A 2010 return seems unlikely, especially with the season just more than one week away.

Let's just say that's how it plays out, no Wegher.

Going into camp, the Hawkeyes three backs with three decent resumes. Wegher had his 641 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. Sophomore Adam Robinson led the Hawkeyes with 834 yards and five TDs last year. In '08, sophomore Jewel Hampton 463 yards, seven TDs and averaged 5.1 yards a carry as a true freshman.

The Hawkeyes still have Robinson and Hampton, who returns after missing '09 with a torn ACL.

Three are better than two, but two out of three ain't bad.

Robinson was the first to jump in after Hampton went to the sidelines. He suffered a high-ankle sprain against Michigan State, but returned just three weeks later and rushed 20 times for 74 yards at Ohio State. No, it wasn't a 100-yard effort, but it was 74 yards on a bum ankle against a rush defense that allowed just 2.8 yards a carry last season.

"I think the thing with Adam was once he got his opportunity, he made the most of it," Iowa running backs coach Lester Erb said. "It's like anything in life, once you get you get your opportunity, you better not let it go by. I think Adam got his opportunity. He's a talented guy. He grabbed the reins and it's going to be up him."

Needless to say, Hampton is one of the hungrier players on the team. He was set to be the undisputed No. 1 in '09 until he tore his ACL during a non-contact drill during summer conditioning.

"We're all ready for a competition," said Hampton, who is suspended for the Sept. 4 season opener because of a June alcohol arrest. "At the end of camp, the competition will take care of itself. The best person will come out on top."

The Big Ten Network football crew attended an Iowa practice last week and filmed segments for it's a preview show 7 p.m.

 Thursday. BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo liked what he saw out of Hampton, saying he had the better day than Robinson.

“They run the zone scheme, and I think he’s got a great feel for the play,” DiNardo said. “He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t rush the cut and then when he sees the seam, he accelerates through the seam. When he’s hit, his shoulders are down so the first thing the defender usually hits is shoulders or his forearms, very rarely his legs. So he runs with great body lean."

After Robinson and Hampton, senior Paki O'Meara the next back with the most experience. True freshmen De'Andre Johnson and Marcus Coker could also factor.

Johnson, who tore an ACL during his senior season at Monsignor Pace in Miami, Fla., carried 25 times for 75 yards in Iowa's open scrimmage Aug. 14. Coker suffered a shoulder injury early in camp, but is expected to be available.

Johnson has been seen quite a bit in the camp photos on the UI's official website. So maybe no redshirt, or maybe not. 

"We're always looking for guys to emerge," Erb said. "We brought two young running backs in this year in Marcus Coker and De'Andre Johnson. We'll see how they develop and how camp goes for them."

Iowa running backs are generally fighting over 30 carries a game. Last season, Robinson and Wegher split that nearly down the middle, with 16.45 going to Robinson and 13.5 to Wegher.

This season, it could breakdown several ways, Erb said. One factor will rule all, though.

"I think with a running back, they've got to get into the flow of a game," Erb said. "You're not really sure until you get into it, but the hot hand might be who coach Ferentz wants in on that series, too. It's really going to come down to that." 

That's where Iowa running back stands right now. Stay tuned, as you know, it can always change.

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Depth charting

RB -- Adam Robinson, so., 5-9, 205 OR Jewel Hampton, so., 5-9, 210; Paki O'Meara, sr., 5-11, 211

FB -- Brett Morse, sr., 6-3, 238; Brad Rogers, 5-10, 215

Inside the huddle

If it comes down to it, Iowa coaches will pull a redshirt off a true freshman running back if it can help the team win. De'Andre Johnson, who rushed for 1,121 yards as a junior at Pace (Miami, Fla), has played a ton in fall camp. Yes, some of it has been as the back who has to go against the first team, but some of it has also been with first- and second-team. He seems fully recovered from an ACL tear last season. Marcus Coker, who rushed for 1,698 and 23 TDs as a senior at DeMatha Catholic (Maryland), might be a step behind after suffering a shoulder injury three or four days into camp. . . . Is there such a thing as the "Angry Running Back Hating God"? Folks at Black Heart Gold Pants think so. Salty language warning, if you're easily offended. . . . Fullback Brett Morse had five carries last season, the most for an Iowa fullback since Tom Busch had nine in 2005.

Numbers game

The question isn't whether Brandon Wegherwill return to the Hawkeyes (make no mistake, Iowa is a better team with the talented sophomore). The question that needs some examination is whether Jewel Hamptonis ready for this. He showed talent, burst and aggression in 2008, when he came in for Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene. Yes, he put up decent numbers, but here's one that punctuates Hampton's limited resume -- 7.0 carries a game. He did a lot with those, but still, he saw limited action while Greene ran his way into the NFL. He carried 91 times in 2008. Last season, Robinson had 181 and Wegher 162. If all three were still around, Hampton still would have the most to prove.

Running back Brandon Wegher has been out of camp since Aug. 7. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz addresses the situation during Iowa's open scrimmage Aug. 14.

Rumors started about Brandon Wegher's academic status last February.

He was asked about that and he said he's fine and good to go.

Running backs coach Lester Erb covers a lot of ground here.

He talks about some of his Kodak moments for Brandon Wegher during his freshman season. "After the first couple series (in Wegher's first game vs. ISU), you could tell he belonged out there."

Here's some media day video from Jewel Hampton.
 
 

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