This is how it works at Iowa running back. They come and they go.
Sophomore Greg Garmon announced his transfer on a December Wednesday. Warren, Ohio, running back LeShun Daniels committed to the Hawkeyes on a December Friday.
Daniels, 5-11, 220, rushed for 1,614 yards and 15 touchdowns last season at Harding High School. Since late June, he had been verbally committed to Boston College. When BC fired head coach Frank Spaziani, Iowa offered a scholarship in late November. A few weeks later Iowa had its newest new running back, and just in time with the opening Garmon’s departure created.
“The success they have had running the ball did help Iowa somewhat,” Daniels told HawkeyeReport.com. “I know they are a team that likes to run the football and being a running back is what what I do so it’s a great fit for me on the field.”
Daniels, whose father played offensive line at Ohio State, also had offers from Akron and Bowling Green with interest from Wisconsin and Penn State. Daniels will the the sixth running back on Iowa’s roster, joining junior Mark Weisman, who led the Hawkeyes in rushing last season with 815 yards, junior Damon Bullock, who finished with 513 yards, sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who redshirted in ’12 while rehabbing a torn ACL, redshirt freshman Barkley Hill, who also rehabbed a torn ACL, last season and redshirt freshman walk-on Michael Malloy.
Daniels passes the “look” test. He’s a barrel-chested downhill runner who looks like a college running back. From an ESPN.com scouting report: “Looks the part now of a BCS back . . . still needs to work on polishing his run, pass receiving and blocking skills, but we like his upside as an every-down, workhorse-type back or a change-of-pace power guy who can get the tough yards and grind the clock when needed.”
During his visit last weekend, Iowa coaches told Daniels he was what they were looking for in a running back.
“They like how I run downhill and how physical I am through contact,” Daniels told ESPN.com. “They feel that fits well with the offense and what they’re trying to do.”
Scouting snippet (from ESPN.com)
The Positive: Has good straight-line speed for his size. His game is built off downhill power though. Doesn't waste a lot of time finding the North-South seam and zone cutback. Quick to square up and to get through the tight in-line seams. Has above average feet through the hole. Can be a load to take down when he generates momentum. Keeps his legs and body driving on contact and pulls through most initial tackles, particularly when smaller second level defenders come in high to wrap up. Has the type of body structure, strength and second effort style that can wear down a defense while remaining durable.
The Pause: However, while he is shifty at times and can jump-cut, we do not see a real elusive back and he actually demonstrates some hip tension when cutting laterally. Lacks the sudden burst out of his cuts to separate when he does break free into the second level as well. Tends to build speed. Not an outside threat and will gear down on the stretch and cut play limiting his power. While a strong between the tackles runner who can absorb a hit, he does tend to get upright and opens his body up for heavy blows while also making himself vulnerable for low cut tackles. Would like to see him run lower behind his pads. Daniels still needs to work on polishing his run, pass receiving and blocking skills but we like his upside as an every-down, workhorse type back at the next level or a change-of-pace power guy who can get the tough yards and grind the clock when needed. Potential BCS sleeper but most likely a mid-major type of back.
What Iowa said . . .
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: "He fits our system very well. He's the type of back who's been successful with us in the past. And then with the way our offense is progressing, Damon Bullock had a ton of success with what he did early on before he got injured, and then we can not only play him at running back but also as a slot receiver. That's where you get the next two guys, Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley, in the mix. We feel very strongly that those two guys can help spell Damon in that role. One thing we felt we needed were guys who had a shot to hit the home run when you handed the ball to them or got the ball out to them in space. That's where you see part of our recruiting going toward." And that's different than the Mark Weisman kind of back . . . "When you don't have to pound it 3 or 4 yards a carry every time, if you can find the guy who can make the 30-, 40-, 50-yard run, that helps out your offense."
What Rivals.com said . . .
Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: "When you look at the issues Iowa has had the last few years with injuries and defections, they just need to stockpile running backs. It seems anyone they stockpile into that role has success. In LeShun Daniels, he's not a guy who's going to break into the open field and pull away from defensive backs, but he can definitely carry the ball 20 to 25 times a game and can pound it between the tackles." Do you think he sticks at RB? "I would say it probably comes down to personnel. If they have a guy they feel fits better in the tailback role and they want to get Daniels on the field, sure, he could jump down to fullback, but I expect him to stick at the tailback role."
What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .
Daniels could potentially be an Iowa big back starter kit, but there seems to be some evolution going on here. There is some wandering from the Shonn Greene type. (If you do the math, Iowa during the Ferentz era hasn't piled 30 carries a game on to one back very often. Greene and Marcus Coker were the anomalies.) Kirk Ferentz pointed out on signing day that Iowa had designs on packages that used Weisman and Bullock. The Bullock position is evolving and, as noted above with the Parker, Wadley additions, is becoming a thing, but I don't expect Iowa to ever fully leave the big back out of the plans. Weisman averaged 15.9 carries a game last season compared to 23.3 for Coker in 2011. Maybe big back gets more like 15 carries and Bullock back gets 10 carries and five receptions. Or if it's Michigan State and raining, big back gets 30 carries.
The fact that Iowa has recruited to Bullock back shows they're serious about it. Unless, of course, they end up at safety or wide receiver.