Iowa running back apocalypse in full scramble

In a weird way, the position has a chance to grow through adversity

Published: September 18 2012 | 5:59 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:38 am in

IOWA CITY -- The roll call for running back on Saturday isn't what you'd have expected back in August. Then again, it's Iowa running back.

Up is down. Black is gold. It's the running back apocalypse every other game. They change ACLs more than some of us change T-shirts.

Sophomore fullback Mark Weisman again will be the man when the Hawkeyes (2-1) play host to Central Michigan (1-1) this weekend. Weisman (6-0, 235) didn't start out as the man last week, but ended up being the last man (running back) standing in Iowa's victory over Northern Iowa.

"I went to dinner with my family and just hung out with friends," said Weisman, who worked harder against UNI (113 yards, three TDs) last Saturday than he played Saturday night. "We watched some football. They're my friends, they gave me a little crap, but it was all good and fun."

Of course, Weisman was slotted into running back after sophomore Damon Bullock (concussion) and true freshman Greg Garmon (elbow) were injured in the first half. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that Bullock is doubtful for this week; Garmon has a chance if he practices well. (If you do a quick historical look at Iowa running backs and concussions, Adam Robinson missed two weeks in 2010.)

With really nowhere else to turn, Iowa running back has a shot to grow from this.†When the other backs return and Weisman slides home to fullback, there will be video that shows him as a bruising runner with decent hands and excellent blocking skills. Opposing defenses will need to note that Iowa fullback isn't just guard No. 3.

"Thatís the only good thing that comes out of this. Someone has to go in and play. It forces our hand," Ferentz said. "We learned a lot more about Mark. We learned a lot more than we knew going into the game, so thatís a good thing."

After the walk-on fullback who transferred to Iowa before last season from the Air Force Academy, who totaled 146 yards offense in his first extended action, who left the Academy because the life, including making his bed, was too rigid for his taste, it really gets interesting for Iowa running back this week.

Michael Malloy, also a walk-on, is No. 2. He's a 6-0, 180-pound true freshman who's never stepped on the field in a game. He might've played last week, but he sat out with flu symptoms.

No. 3 this week would be junior fullback Brad Rogers. Hey, why not? The fullback worked out pretty well last week.

No. 4 is where it gets even more interesting. Junior Andre Dawson isn't eligible, Ferentz said, because he has a non-athletic scholarship that would be forfeited if he played.

"Itís a complicated deal, so we are limited on that one," Ferentz said. "Itís a rule, NCAA rule."

That brings us to Jordan Canzeri.

Canzeri suffered a torn ACL at the beginning of spring practice in March. Ferentz has maintained all along that his surgery and rehab have gone exceedingly well. Canzeri, a 5-9, 188-pound sophomore, returned to practice prior to Iowa State. He was in uniform and on the sidelines last week.

"He was cleared to play last week," Ferentz said. "He looked OK [in practice]. To the casual observer, you wouldn't know he was injured, but he hasnít done a great volume of work, either."

For the ACL math you have in your head, yes, roughly six months for Canzeri does sound extremely fast. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL and MCL last December and played on opening day this year for the Vikings. That's a nine-month span, which is considered industry standard.

For an outlier example, take a look at former Hawkeye Jermelle Lewis. He suffered a torn ACL in March 2003 and returned to the field Oct. 18, which was around seven months. It was unrelated and nearly a full calendar year later, but Lewis did suffer a torn ACL in his other knee in October 2004 that essentially ended his football career.

Ferentz emphasized Tuesday that this decision doesn't lie with the coaches. He added that there's "medical clearance" and actually being able to play the game.

"The medical people tell us when itís safe for a player to return. Theyíre the experts, not us," Ferentz said. "Then, our job is to look at the player practice and perform. Itís conceivable that a guy could be cleared medically and then not by us. It depends on the position, the injury, that type of thing. Itís just a day at a time. . . .†Part of it is playerís level of confidence, too."

In a perfect world, Ferentz would love to redshirt Canzeri, allow him more than a year to recover and continue to build his body (he is a true sophomore). Iowa running back isn't a perfect world. You saw Saturday. It's more like the zombie apocalypse.

It's all limbs on deck.

"I†donít think we are going to have that luxury this year based on [last] Saturday," Ferentz said of Canzeri. "I think whoever can help this team win is going to help, and I just didnít even allow myself to think about it during the course of the summer just because I didnít think it was realistic [Canzeri's return], but heís been cleared now, so itís a matter of when he's ready to play."

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