IOWA CITY — Tuesday was teleconference day for Big Ten coaches. This gives media the chance to ask questions from afar, from Wisconsin to Louisville to Champaign.
For Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, this meant a fresh round of questions about . . . you know . . . c’mon, you’re from freaking Iowa . . . running back.
Kirk, what’s your plan at running back going into this game?
“Basically, anybody who’s healthy and with us is going to play,” Ferentz said.
Sophomore Damon Bullock is in, he’s the starter with a resume that includes 10 carries for 20 yards. This is Iowa and so you know this isn’t the most dire of straits the Hawkeyes have faced in this regard. Going into the 2008 season, wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was Iowa’s leading returning rusher with two carries for 19 yards.
No, Iowa isn’t trying to top itself in this regard. It’s just how it’s worked out.
There was more from the Big Ten teleconference.
Kirk, who would you characterize the running back position over the last several years?
Audible sigh on the other side of the line.
Let’s not review what was anymore, no matter how tempting that might be. Iowa’s reality Saturday against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field is Bullock and true freshmen Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy.
By all reports, Bullock has had a steady camp. What that really means, who knows, but he’ll have first shot.
“We’re down to three guys we can envision going into the ballgame, with Damon being the most experienced,” Ferentz said, “and he has played, but he’s hardly a seasoned player.”
That’s simply a hard fact.
“I have a plan to play all three guys and see how they do,” Ferentz said. “Certainly right now, I expect all three guys to be in the game. I don’t know to what extent. We’ll see how that plays out. We’ll look and see what the week of practice looks like and go from there.”
Garmon and Malloy are fresh off the school bus. Both had legal run-ins before they showed up at Iowa, with Malloy’s possibly costing him a scholarship to Iowa.
Garmon, a 6-1, 190-pounder who rushed for 2,859 yards at McDowell (Erie, Pa.) High School, showed great burst in Iowa’s second scrimmage. He made up for a lack of decisiveness with a 0-to-60 mph that will give him something to work with even if he doesn’t have a full grasp of the offense.
“Greg is a pretty dynamic player,” Ferentz said. “He’s a guy who can do a lot of things. Very quick and seems to have a real passion for playing. We’re excited about him.”
Malloy, 6-0, 180, was incredibly productive as a junior at Sioux City Heelan, when he rushed for 1,668 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also had 26 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. As a senior, he only rushed 11 times for 83 yards and three TDs and caught four passes for 78 yards and a TD, but he missed most of the season after suffering a torn ACL.
Fullback Brad Rogers, who’s been banged up in fall camp himself, has had a front row seat on the true freshmen.
“He’s matured a little bit,” Rogers said, referring to the drug paraphernalia charge that Garmon took in July this summer. “That’s hard for a true freshman to do when they come in. No one really comes in here cocky.”
Malloy is virtually unknown. His charge was obstructing a police officer. The torn ACL/scholarship situation seemed to kick him when he was down. Whatever drove what seems to be a glitch on an otherwise steady pattern of behavior — Malloy scored a 27 on his ACT and strongly committed to the walk-on proposition in January — is gone.
“He’s just a hard worker,” Rogers said. “That’s what he’s building his reputation on. He goes in and does his job and goes hard every play. I really haven’t seen any complaints about him not going hard.”
Yes, sophomore Jordan Canzeri is back at practice. No, he isn’t in the immediate plans. Ferentz said months or weeks for the Troy, N.Y., native who suffered a torn ACL in March.
“I think realistically, we’ll reserve judgment on that,” Ferentz said. “I think we’re looking at weeks or months before we even talk about him entering back into contact or anything live at all.
“It’s great that he’s rehab is going well and it’s great to get him back in uniform. I think that makes him feel better and helps the rehab process, but I think, again realistically, I think we’re months away from having him return to action.”
What about you, Brad Rogers? Rogers does have some running back on his resume. It’s way down there now after nearly two seasons at fullback. The 5-10, 230-pounder’s last legit shot at running back was 2010 against Ball State. That’s like 14 years ago in football years, which, for Rogers, included 10-month layoff because of a heart condition.
“Right now, we really don’t know,” Rogers said. “Coaches have talked to me about playing both.”
So, the sentence “Brad Rogers will run the ball 20 times against Northern Illinois on Saturday” isn’t completely off-the-wall?
“You never know,” Rogers said with a laugh. “It all depends how the game goes. Anything can happen. Injuries happen, things happen. If it happens, so be it.”
It’s Iowa running back. “Anything can happen” is a given at this point.
IOWA’S BIG THREE AT RB
Damon Bullock — Iowa file: 10 carries for 20 yards as a true freshman last season. Moved to WR prior to the season opener, but then moved back to RB after true freshman Mika’il McCall shattered an ankle in the opener. Bullock also had one catch for 11 yards. Prep file: A broken collarbone two games into his junior season erased Bullock’s recruitment. He took the only offer he had, the one from Iowa that came two days before signing day. He rushed for 1,606 yards and 22 TDs as a senior at Mansfield (Texas) High School.
Greg Garmon — Iowa file: He led Iowa rushers in the second scrimmage with 11 carries for 43 yards. First collegiate carry will come Saturday at Soldier Field. Prep file: Garmon played in various all-star games where his height blossomed to 6-3 and weight to 200. At Iowa, he’s listed 6-1, 200, but is closer to 190. “The complete back, he’s been blessed with great size, speed, vision, balance and hands. He’s a three-ring circus who can run, catch and block” — recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
Michael Malloy — Iowa file: He rushed 10 times for 22 yards in the second scrimmage. He showed he was willing to
throw his 6-0, 180-pound body into the line of scrimmage. Prep file: The strife Malloy went through last August was painfully public. It was the type of deal (the initial charges included a drug paraphernalia possession) that could’ve pushed him into anonymity. The fact that he followed through on the walk-on and is in Iowa City now with a chance to carry the ball as a true freshman tells you where he head is.