IOWA CITY — Jordan Canzeri is on the clock.
The Iowa running back suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill at practice last week. Before his surgery on Wednesday, he wrote on Facebook that he wanted it over with and want get at rehabilitation to be back in time for the season.
Seems like a tall order. After all, Canzeri is a running back and we are talking about a torn ACL.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t shoot down the notion of Canzeri’s return during a Wednesday news conference. He didn’t say that the 5-foot-9 186-poudner would return, but he didn’t shoot down the idea.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Ferentz said. “Typically, it’s five to six months for a guy to be cleared medically. It’s a matter of what they can do physically and if they’re out of harm’s way from a medical standpoint, then they have to try to get back to old form.”
Ferentz said he could see Canzeri receiving medical clearance near the beginning of September and then wait and see. Canzeri didn’t suffer any other structural damage. With the dramatic nature of Iowa’s running back position, you can bet Canzeri saw the opportunity and that will drive him in his rehab.
“It’s just a matter of how quickly he can get back,” Ferentz said. “We won’t go in with a set plan, we’ll just see how he goes and see how he’s doing. What’s most important is his welfare.”
The clock is ticking. Iowa is 149 days from kickoff against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field on Sept. 1 and, with Canzeri’s injury and uncertainty, running back might be more up in the air than ever.
Iowa is 10 days from its spring scrimmage. Immediately, running back will be held down by sophomores Damon Bullock and De’Andre Johnson, who combined to rush for 99 yards in 2010. Junior walk-on Andre Dawson has moved into the rotation this spring. He gained 263 yards and scored three touchdowns on 47 carries at Iowa Western Community College last season. He suffered a high-ankle sprain and was limited from about the middle of the season to the end.
“You’ve got Damon out there and De’Andre,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got the new guy out there, too. Andre’s been working and picking things up.”
If you’re waiting for some wailing over the constant revolving door at running back due to either injury or departure, you’ll keep waiting. Ferentz doesn’t bite on the running back curse.
“Those things come and go, there’s ebb and flow,” Ferentz said. “If nobody ever got hurt, football would be the greatest game in the world. That’s really the biggest downside to football.”
Plus, the reality of running back is you get hit and get hit a lot. Ligaments and consciousness will be tested nearly every play. There’s nowhere to hide. You carry the ball, you are a target.
“It’s been really unfortunate for those guys,” center James Ferentz said. “It’s a hard road playing running back. It’s a difficult position to begin with. They’re getting hit every play, which is not something anyone really envies.”
In approximately 120 days, Iowa will have two incoming freshmen running backs in camp and in gear. Greg Garmon (Erie, Pa.) and Barkley Hill (Cedar Falls) said when they signed with the Hawkeyes that playing time was part of the attraction. They’ve measured the idea of a “curse” and they aren’t buying it.
“Those were unfortunate situations where people didn’t make the best decisions,” said Hill, a 6-foot 210-pounder who wants to be 215 or 220 pounds before fall camp. “Just stay out of trouble and move on.”
The No. 1 reason Garmon picked Iowa over Miami (Fla.) and Arkansas was because of the opportunity to play running back.
They offer contrasting styles, according to Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst.
“I think Hill is that prototypical back Iowa always has there,” Helmholdt said. “He’s going to be able pound it out between the tackles and he brings nice speed to the edge.”
Garmon (6-1, 195) has a thinner build and excellent acceleration.
“Garmon is a little bit of a change of pace,” Helmholdt said. “He’s listed as a bigger kid, but I thought he was more of a sprint-type running back, more of a guy who lines up next to the quarterback in the shotgun. You can flex him out in the slot, too. He almost looks like a wide receiver, because he’s a little bit tall and lanky.”
If Iowa coaches considered pumping the brakes on Garmon and Hill in the lineup, it doesn’t sound as though they are now.
“Basically, any first‑year guy who proves that he can help our team, we’ll give him that opportunity,” Ferentz said.