O’Meara moves to fore
Correction appended 09/05/09
After Shonn Greene’s remarkable run last year, rushing for 1,850 yards and claiming the Doak Walker Award as college football’s top tailback, the Hawkeyes were constantly questioned about who could replace him.
Iowa planned for sophomore running back Jewel Hampton to step in and fill the void left by Greene, but Hampton’s recent injury is like Chad Ocho Cinco’s fashion sense — not good.
On Tuesday, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz announced that Hampton would be sidelined all season after re-aggravating an ACL injury during the preseason.
“Knee surgery — that’s what he’s facing,” Ferentz said. “I think the hardest thing in football is dealing with guy’s injury problems. If it requires surgery, that’s significant.”
Enter junior Paki O’Meara. The former walk-on from Cedar Rapids moves up to become the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 running back on the depth chart.
“As far as Jewel being out, I couldn’t have predicted that,” O’Meara said following Ferentz’s press conference. “But like I said before, I am just happy I have the opportunity.”
Although Hawkeye football chatter focused on Greene last year, Ferentz was impressed with O’Meara’s presence and physicality on the field.
“He’s just a guy who does everything pretty well, and that’s not a bad thing to do,” the coach said. “He’s a smart player. He’s been on the field on special teams. He’s experienced. Those are all good things. It’s his turn now.”
Experience was a reason the starting tailback slot went to O’Meara and not redshirt freshman Adam Robinson, who has not played a game since finishing his high-school career at Lincoln in Des Moines as an all-state running back.
With the last-minute withdrawal of Hampton from the lineup, Ferentz and running-back coach Lester Erb are focusing on the duo to lead the Hawkeyes to their first win of the season against Northern Iowa on Saturday.
“At this point, that’s our one-two tandem, and then we’ll see what happens after that,” Ferentz said. “This week will determine a little bit.”
But while many might point to Robinson’s lack of experience, O’Meara has seen the youngster’s football maturity over the last year.
“I think a lot of it has to come down to experience. Trying to adjust to the speed of college and everything is definitely hard to do,” he said. “Over camp, though, Adam has just been improving every day significantly, so I think when he gets out there, he is going to do a good job too.”
Robinson said much the same about O’Meara.
“He has a lot of heart,” Robinson said. “When we do scrimmages, it takes a lot of guys to bring him down. I just like his aggressiveness, and he does a lot of things well.
“He picks up blitzes and stuff like that. Even though we may not have Jewel, Paki is right up there with him.”
In the Sept. 3 article “O’Meara moves to fore,” the DI inaccurately reported junior running back Paki O’Meara’s final game statistics against Florida International on Sept. 6, 2008.
O’Meara recorded 20 yards on three carries during the contest. Iowa as a whole posted 241 yards rushing and 512 yards of total offense. The DI regrets the error.
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