Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis talked running backs this week. That whole “hot hand” thing? It’s pretty much true, it just took Iowa some time to figure out who could do what this season.
Here’s a clear assessment from Davis on who is what.
1. Weisman is up for anything — Junior Mark Weisman needs 63 yards to become the first Iowa back since 2011 to crack 1,000 yards for the season. He’s a power back, no ifs, ands or buts. His style isn’t going to bend. It will never be nimble or nuanced.
“When he carries it in the 25-to-30 range, he’s going to take some collisions,” Davis said. “He’s going to dish out some collisions, too. We’ve tried to be smarter with him, not only during the ballgame, but also during the week.”
Weisman is as close as Iowa has to a big, bruising back as it has this year and maybe next, unless LeShun Daniels’ role grows. Daniels is a 6-0, 225-pounder who looks heavier. Davis said 230 pounds isn’t a requirement for Iowa running back.
“When you’re running inside and all that, you naturally think the bigger the better,” Davis said. “There are no special dimensions that we’re looking for. We’re looking for guys who are physically tough, who’ll take care of the ball and, obviously, lateral movement is important for backs.”
Iowa coaches clearly believe Weisman has enough lateral movement. He’s definitely tough and has fumbled just twice in 367 carries. Plus, his non-selfish, can-do spirit is noteworthy. When fullback Macon Plewa was injured late in the year, Iowa was down to Adam Cox at fullback. Weisman was the second option.
2. Bullock’s strength — Junior Damon Bullock has been a consistent element in Iowa’s offense all season. Why? Davis loves what he can do in the passing game.
“Damon is really a special guy,” Davis said. “Not only is he good as a running back, but he’s really good in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver. Probably the best answer goes back to the Weisman deal. The more guys we have who can go in and play, the healthier you stay because it’s a long race from August to Thanksgiving.”
Bullock led running backs with 18 catches for 168 yards and a TD. He was more hit than miss when it came to picking up blitzes and protecting quarterback Jake Rudock.
Going into the Outback Bowl, Bullock averages 4.06 yards on 115 carries. As sophomore Jordan Canzeri started to take off during the final four games, Bullock’s carries went six, 10, four and three.
Davis did admit that Bullock’s carries leaked to Canzeri.
3. Why did it take so long to get to Canzeri? — Canzeri finished the season as Iowa’s hottest hand at running back. He averaged just 14.4 yards a game during the first eight weeks of the season, and then, after popping a 43-yard run against Wisconsin — which remains Iowa’s longest run of the season — he averaged 83 yards over the last four games.
Canzeri was medically cleared to return last season after suffering a torn ACL in the spring of ’12. So, he might’ve been dealing with a sore knee, but other than that, what took so long?
“We probably should’ve gotten to him a little bit earlier, because he’s a very dependable back,” Davis said. “We had some concerns with ball security early in the season. We feel better about that now. We’re really pleased with what he’s done.”
So, Weisman runs through the car wash that is the line of scrimmage a little better than the other two. Bullock is a threat in the passing game and, perhaps, the best pass protector in the backfield. Canzeri has the quickest burst and cuts.
You can see how the decision on who gets what can get muddled without telegraphing too much through personnel. Don’t look for it to get any more clear this spring. All three return along with Daniels and true freshmen Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley.
It’s good to have options. You follow Iowa football and Iowa running back. You don’t take that statement lightly.
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