Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that running back Brandon Wegher will likely not be back this season and “for all I know maybe forever.”
Ferentz spoke during the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday.
Wegher was one topic.
“If he comes back, we’ll let you know,” Ferentz said. “But we’re coaching the guys we have. Our focus is on our roster.
“As far as I know, he’s gone for at least this season and, for all I know, maybe forever. That’s something he’ll decide and work through [and] we’ll discuss if it’s ever appropriate, but for right now, we’re coaching the guys who are here.”
Running back remains a hot topic with the Hawkeyes.
Sophomore Adam Robinson carried a career-high 28 times against Penn State and had the blunt-force trauma to show for it.
“Really, really sore,” Robinson said after rushing 28 times for 95 in Iowa’s 24-3 victory over Penn State. “We’ve got the bye week coming up. I’ll be able to heal up and get ready for our next game.”
His Sunday included Ibuprofen, ice and a whirlpool.
Robinson carried the load. This was Robinson’s third game this season with 20-plus carries. In ’09, he reached that plateau just three times, including his former career-high of 27 against Michigan State. Robinson finished with 181 carries last season. This year, he’s at 98 and counting.
Freshmen Brad Rogers and Marcus Coker didn’t get a carry Saturday night. Rogers entered the game when Robinson had a helmet malfunction, but a timeout was called and Robinson made it back in for the next snap.
Running back development is a focus this week, Ferentz said Tuesday.
“Our running back position is a little bit of a concern right now,” Ferentz said. “We’re not really deep there since two of the three guys everybody thought would be playing this year [Wegher and Jewel Hampton, who's out for the season with a torn ACL] aren’t with us. We have more areas like that than I’d care to have.
“I don’t want to expound too deeply on that, but we need to get some guys moving forward here.”
One younger guy who’s already moved forward is true freshman middle linebacker James Morris. He entered Saturday night’s game after Troy Johnson (concussion) and Jeff Tarpinian (neck/shoulder stinger) left. Morris, a 6-2, 215-pounder, had seven tackles and broke up a pass.
His defensive mates liked what they saw.
“When the crowd is loud and you can still hear the mike linebacker, that’s huge,” defensive tackle Karl Klug said. “As a true freshman and against Penn State, I thought he did a phenomenal job.”
Ferentz said Morris was the No. 4 middle linebacker on Tuesday. Tarpinian is No.1. Johnson and Bruce Davis are Nos. 2 and 3. Davis suffered a torn ACL against Arizona and is out for the year.
“That was not a comforting thought,” Ferentz said. “But I thought James stepped up and did a nice job.”
That’s pretty much the plan this week. Counting August camp, the Hawkeyes are eight weeks into the season with eight more to go. This will be a week of rest for the players who’ve carried the load these eight weeks.
“I think it’s important we give everyone a chance to get their legs back under them a little bit,” Ferentz said. “Every year is different. This year we have more injuries than we’ve had in some other times. So, I think we have to be intelligent that way.
“At the same time, we have some younger guys who really have to be moved a long here. Saturday was a great example. If you would’ve told any of us in August that James Morris was going to be playing 2 1/2 or three quarters against Penn State on national TV, I think all of us would’ve been a little bit nervous about that. We’re going to have that again at other positions here down the road. We’re not that deep of a team. We have to try to move our younger guys along and try to be smart with our older guys.”