A CLOSER LOOK AT IOWA’S RUNNING BACKS
The Depth Chart
No. 1s – Running back: Mark Weisman, jr., 6-0, 236. Fullback: Macon Plewa, so., 6-2, 234. No. 2s – Running backs: Damon Bullock, jr., 6-0, 200; Jordan Canzeri, so., 5-9, 187. Fullback: Adam Cox, so., 5-11, 215; Berkley Grimm, so., 6-0, 230.
Junior Mark Weisman is the guy, but there will probably be other guys. During Big Ten media days, coach Kirk Ferentz said he could see Weisman carry the ball 20 times a game. Last season, Weisman averaged 16 carries a game with a high of 29 in the season finale against Nebraska. If Weisman gets 20 carries, that leaves 10 to 13 more for . . . Some for junior Damon Bullock. The thing with Bullock is Iowa seems more invested in him working in the slot. In spring and summer scrimmages, Bullock logged just 22 carries (for 25 yards). He suffered two concussions last season, so probably chalk the light workload up to precaution. He’s maintained that he’s still a running back. Sophomore Jordan Canzeri will get touches. Will he be used as a traditional running back? Or will Iowa try to work the 5-9, 187-pounder on the edges and in space, where he can take advantage of his quickness and speed?
Here’s what first-year running backs coach Chris White said: “We’re trying to get Mark in the right situation. We’re trying to get Damon in the right situation, in terms of how he’s carrying the ball, how we can get him the ball throwing it. Whether we spread him out, or we get him out of the backfield. We’re trying to hone in on the packages we want to have the guys in on the field.”
Fullback is on the fringe of the playbook. During the summer scrimmage, sophomore Macon Plewa saw only a handful of carries. Weisman might be the best fullback on the roster, too.
By the way, here is White’s RB philosophy (he’s in his first ever season as a running backs coach): “The four Bs are base, bend, balance and burst. I think they’ve bought in. That’s what they’ve been working on all summer with [strength and conditioning] coach [Chris] Doyle, little drills to get them into their base, which is the most important thing as a runner. As a runner, you’re very rarely running full speed, full stride down the field. You’re always in a base, trying to make a cut. That’s what I’m trying to do. When they’re in contact areas, they need to be in a base so they’re not getting knocked over. Too many times last season, on film, they were in open space and they were getting tackled. We’re going to get to the second level, meaning the safety level, and we’re going to try to do a better job of breaking tackles, ripping through tackles, making people miss, those types of things. That’s what the four Bs are all about.”
The No. 2s
True freshman LeShun Daniels is in the mix. The 6-0, 220-pounder had 13 carries for 73 yards in the summer scrimmage. He had a long run of 21 and scored three TDs on runs of 2, 1 and 1. After the scrimmage, Ferentz said, “He’s done a nice job. He’s handled everything. A couple of the other guys have been out (Michael Malloy, Barkley Hill and Weisman). That’s opened the door, and he’s stepped in there and has done a good job.” Count Daniels in. His style mimics Weisman’s. The question there is how much is enough to burn a redshirt? Malloy is a powerful runner and a pretty nifty receiver (three catches for 35 yards during the scrimmage with one nicely executed screen pass). He’s a redshirt freshman and Daniels is a true freshman. Malloy and Daniels probably aren’t in direct competition, but maybe it comes down to one of the other. Hill suffered a torn ACL last August. That has healed, but Ferentz said he’s missed some camp with undisclosed injuries. Iowa has six scholarship running backs. History says it will need them all.
Daniels made the big splash during the scrimmage. He runs low, with great lean and hides behind his pads well. He doesn’t give defenders much of a target to attack. The other two true freshman — Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley — offer different bodies and skill sets. Parker is 5-8, 175. He was used as a traditional Iowa RB in the scrimmage and rushed for 10 yards on 14 carries. He was a willing combatant and he’s probably looking at a speedier role on the offense. Wadley (5-11, 170) showed great burst, taking five carries for 33 yards and catching one pass for a 70-yard TD. Is he a running back or a wide receiver? He’ll probably redshirt this year and figure that out. He had an exciting night in his first at Kinnick.
– Marc Morehouse
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