IOWA CITY — Save your Bubble Wrap.
Adam Robinson plays running back. This is a position where fear will get you benched or slaughtered. Yes, the sophomore is Iowa’s last running back standing, but that’s not going to change the way he plays the game.
It can’t, and he knows it.
“There’s no time for thinking or pausing, anything like that,” Robinson said. “Whenever you’re on the field, you have to go full throttle, because you never get those plays back.”
Running back isn’t a position for the meek. Iowa found that out again last weekend.
Sophomore Jewel Hampton tore an ACL at Arizona and is out for the season. The 5-foot-9, 210-pounder missed 2009 after an ACL repair. That was the right knee, this time it’s the left.
“It’s going to require surgery and a fairly ample recovery period, so I don’t think he’s going to play this year,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Robinson is all that’s left of the experienced stable of running backs the No. 18 Hawkeyes (2-1) had in August. Sophomore Brandon Wegher left the team.
With running backs spontaneously combusting all around him, Robinson only looks forward.
“You’ve got 11 guys on the other side of the ball trying to kill you or essentially take your head off,” said Robinson, who was held to career lows in carries (10) and yards (5) against Arizona. “If you’re running in there tiptoeing and trying to ease your way around things, it’s not going to happen. You have to bring more intensity than the guys who are trying to tackle you.”
If you hold your breathe every time Robinson carries the ball Saturday against Ball State (1-2), you’ll pass out.
Not only is Hampton out, senior Paki O’Meara is out this week after suffering a concussion at Arizona. Against Iowa State, walk-on Jason White sprained an ACL and will remain sidelined at least a couple of weeks.
After Robinson, it’s all in at running back.
Freshmen Marcus Coker and De’Andre Johnson are in play, Ferentz said. He was asked about freshman linebacker James Morris, who rushed for 6,646 yards at Solon. The problem is Morris’ profile at linebacker grew with the news that reserve linebacker and special teamer Bruce Davis will miss the season with an ACL injury.
Coker, who rushed for 1,698 yards and 23 TDs as a prep senior, will play against the Cardinals, Ferentz said. The timing with the 6-0, 230-pounder fit well considering that he’s coming off a shoulder/collarbone injury that happened a week into fall camp.
Coker returned to full practice last week for the first time since the August injury. If he practices well this week, he plays, Ferentz said.
“Right now, what we have to do is prepare like everybody is going to play,” Ferentz said. “We want to win this year, too, and not worry about four years from now. Whatever it takes, but at the same time you don’t want to put anyone on the field who isn’t ready to perform, either. We’ll have to see how that goes.
“ … The good news is (Coker) has fresh legs.”
If Ferentz could red-shirt one of the freshmen, it would be Johnson, who had ACL surgery last fall and has spent this season on the scout team.
What about Wegher?
He left the team for personal reasons after the second practice of fall camp. Ferentz dismissed the idea of a return.
Robinson, who keeps in touch with Wegher, would welcome him back. Of course, Robinson would love the help.
“He’d definitely have to make up some ground, but if he did what he was asked to do, make up for lost time, hey, come on in,” Robinson said.
Senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said, “That’s a tough question.”
“We’d see if he’d pass the conditioning test. I don’t know if he’s ready,” Stanzi said. “You can’t even stop and think about those things and worry about them. We just have to worry about the guys who have been here all through camp and who’ve been invested.”
For now, it’s Robinson and running back Bubble Wrap has yet to be invented.