IOWA CITY -- Marcus Coker seemed fine this week. After the Michigan State game, however, he was a little wobbly.
He shuffled to a corner of the postgame interview room. One eyewitness account of Coker leaving Kinnick Stadium wondered if the Iowa running back didn't need some sort of assistance.
As the carries pile up, the call for a No. 2 echoes through out Hawk-dom. More to the point, the call for Mika'il McCall revs up.
During the last three weeks, it's become louder and louder. And yet, McCall sits, just as he has since suffering a broken ankle week one against Tennessee Tech.
All the while, Coker's carries have entered Iowa's top 10 attempts for a season.
"I'm beat up a little bit, but nothing too serious," said Coker, whose 232 carries are sixth in the nation. At this pace, Coker should clock in for the season at or around 300 carries. He's already tied with Ladell Betts for No. 7 in attempts for a season.
Sedrick Shaw's 316 carries in 1995 is the Iowa record. Shonn Greene came close to that in 2008 with 307. Fred Russell is No. 3 on the list with 282 in 2003.
"I would call myself selfish, I'm not going to lie," Coker said. "During a game, I want to get in there and get all the reps I can. But whatever the coaches feel we need to do, I'm down to do."
As far as running backs go, redshirt freshman De'Andre Johnson is No. 2 on the Hawkeyes in attempts with 18. He hasn't carried the ball in two weeks after rushing two times for 3 yards at Minnesota. The fewest carries for Iowa's No. 2 running back the last five seasons was Jewel Hampton's 91 in 2008.
Initially, coach Kirk Ferentz said McCall was out for the season. But then, McCall participated in warm-ups against Northwestern on Oct. 15. Then, the week of the Minnesota game, Ferentz said the 6-foot, 220-pounder would play against the Gophers.
And now, with Iowa's percentages for a Legend Division title and spot in the inaugural Big Ten title game down to single digits, McCall's status is solidly wait-and-see.
"We plan to play him this week," Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night. "We think if he plays these next two games, he'll be that much farther ahead next season."
The question has changed as time has passed. It's not where is McCall, it's why play McCall?
If McCall doesn't play, he would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver. The baseline rule says that if a player suffers an incapacitating injury or illness in the first half of the playing season and hasn't played in 30 percent of the scheduled contests, the school can request a medical hardship from the Big Ten.
That's not cut-and-dry, however.
Iowa would file the medical hardship waivers request with the Big Ten conference office. The Big Ten would then determine whether the student-athlete should be granted an additional year of competition as a result of his/her incapacitating injury or illness.
The key is that the institution provides "contemporaneous" medical documentation. The school must provide a diagnosis or description of the student-athlete’s injury or illness at the time of the injury or illness and a demonstration that the injury or illness is incapacitating.
When Iowa scored an extra year for offensive tackle David Porter in 2002, it had to provide game video that showed Porter didn't play after the sixth game of the season.
The documentation falls to the training staff. The terms that could derail a request for medical hardship waiver are "full participation" or "full clearance." These terms imply that the player has healed and is ready for competition.
Here's a quote from an article Dr. Bryan W. Smith, medical consultant for the Atlantic Coast Conference, wrote for a publication called "Physician Forte" that appeared in a section for team doctors.
"Just because the coach doesn’t play the student-athlete [doesn't] mean he or she is still incapacitated if the student-athlete is fully cleared by the medical staff."
Ferentz said he's been looking for the right opportunity to use McCall. He also said he believes the medical hardship waiver is an option.
"He's been out a ton," Ferentz said. "He's got an X-ray that would prove a pretty legitimate injury. The real surprise is that he has a chance to come back, and we'll just see how things go."
Meanwhile, the carries pile up for Coker, who suffered a shoulder injury during August camp and last season suffered a broken collarbone in camp and was limited to seven games as a true freshman. When he was fully healthy, Iowa still had 10 weeks of football in front of it.
McCall is looking at two road games and a bowl.
Is it worth it?
"I think he's a team-first guy," Ferentz said. "I think that's how he looks at it."
1. Sedrick Shaw (1995) 316 carries, 1,477 yards, 15 TDs
2. Shonn Greene (2008) 307 carries, 1,850 yards, 20 TDs
3. Fred Russell (2003) 282 carries, 1,355 yards, 7 TDs
4. Dennis Mosley (1979) 270 carries, 1,267 yards, 12 TDs
5. Tavian Banks (1997) 260 carries, 1,691 yards, 17 TDs
6. Albert Young (2005) 249 carries, 1,334 yards, 8 TDs
7. (tie) Ladell Betts (2000) 232 carries, 1,090 yards, 5 TDs
9. Shaw (1996) 224 carries, 1,116 yards, 9 TDs
10. Ronnie Harmon (1985) 223 carries, 9 TDs