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Injuries abound in Iowa backfield

BY SCOTT MILLER | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

More Hawkeye football coverage:

• Iowa linebackers: Tarpinian finds a home
• Q&A with Pat Angerer
• Q&A with Dace Richardson
• Q&A with A.J. Edds

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At the start of spring practice, Kirk Ferentz called having three experienced running backs “a real luxury.” Now, he’s wondering why he said anything at all.

The 12th-year Iowa head coach was without his top three running backs — sophomores Jewel Hampton (knee), Brandon Wegher (shoulder), and Adam Robinson (shoulder) — for the April 17 spring game.

Ferentz expected Robinson to miss the spring as he recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. Hampton participated in spring ball but did so without absorbing any contact after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. Wegher’s injury was unexpected.

“Everybody was worried about that a month ago — ‘What are you going to do with all the running backs?’ ” Ferentz joked after the spring scrimmage.

The head coach said that Hampton “could play right now,” but he was being “prudent” with his sophomore running back, who rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns as a true freshman in 2008.

Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe characterized Hampton as a guy “who’s confident, is back, and ready to go. He’s going a mile a minute.”

Senior Paki O’Meara also suffered what Ferentz characterized as a “sprain” a couple of weeks ago. He did not participate in the open practice, either.

Fifth- and sixth-string backs Brad Rogers and Jason White ran most of the time with the top two offensive units on April 17. Rogers sprained an ankle late in the scrimmage, and White moved from defensive back to tailback for the last week-and-a-half of spring ball “out of necessity,” Ferentz said.

“Yeah, it sucks,” tight end Allen Reisner said about not having Robinson, Wegher, and Hampton for the spring game. “I feel bad for the guys who had to keep going every play, but I think those guys will be healthy in the fall, so it will be all right.”

Ferentz said, “We expect all those guys to be fully healthy. If they can train hard June and July, I think they should be all ready to go by camp.”

Ferentz and Company are used to the shuffling in the backfield.

Last season, Hampton was the heir apparent to Shonn Greene’s backfield perch. But a torn ACL kept him out all year.

O’Meara started in Hampton’s place in the season-opener against Northern Iowa. Lack of production moved him behind the two true freshmen, Robinson and Wegher.

Iowa went three-consecutive games late last season — Indiana, Northwestern, and Ohio State — with just one viable backfield option because of Robinson’s and Wegher’s various injuries.

Now, it appears Ferentz could have to do some similar shuffling when camp rolls around.

“Last year during camp, we were handing off to freshmen who I had never met before,” senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “That’s part of football. You’ve got to be able to adapt and change.”

With the proper training, the backfield trio should be back in time for camp, Ferentz said. Wegher could probably play a game in three to four weeks, he said, and Robinson should be full speed by June.

If all three remain healthy, Ferentz and O’Keefe will have the difficult task of juggling carries among three productive backs. But at this point, that’s a luxury Ferentz would most certainly take.

“It’s a reminder of how fragile things are,” he said. “As soon as you start thinking you’ve things where you want them, not so fast.”

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