Coker ready to break out?


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As per Kirk Ferentz's rule for true freshmen, running back Marcus Coker hasn't been made available to the media this season.

That's OK, though. Ask Coker's teammates and coaches about him, and they'll tell you plenty — and it's all good.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz says Coker is "very attentive" and has a "good football aptitude." Safety Tyler Sash noticed a "certain demeanor" about the Beltsville, Md., native as soon as he joined the team.

Julian Vandervelde makes a more straight-forward assessment.

"[Coker's] more of a 'just shut your mouth and do your work' kind of guy, which is really what we look for," the senior offensive lineman said.

If recent performances against Indiana — and Coker's recent increased workload — are any indication, he may get plenty of work Saturday.

The 15th-ranked Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) will play the Hoosiers (4-4, 0-4) at 11:01 a.m. (CDT) Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

In Iowa's 2008 trip to Bloomington, then-true freshman Jewel Hampton ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in relief of Shonn Greene as the Hawkeyes rolled to a 45-9 victory.

Last season's encounter was a bit more dramatic. Iowa needed a 28-point fourth quarter to claim a 42-24 comeback victory, but true freshman Brandon Wegher ran the ball 25 times for 118 yards and — again — three touchdowns.

Will history repeat itself Saturday — this time in the form of Coker?

Maybe. Maybe not.

For now, teammates, such as Vandervelde, are happy to be playing on the same side as him. The left guard has been most impressed with the 6-0, 230-pounder's physicality.

Coker has only touched the ball in two games, but has totaled 100 yards on 26 carries while backing up first-stringer Adam Robinson.

"We all knew that he had skill," Vandervelde said. "I don't think anybody knew how tough of a runner he was going to be. He looks so hard to bring down out there.

"I'm glad I'm not trying to tackle him."

With Coker missing the majority of preseason camp with a shoulder injury, that bruising style went unseen by much of the team for quite some time.

Ferentz called Coker's missed time "the equivalent of like eight weeks during the season because of the amount of practice time you have in camp," but he said the freshman's attention to detail and diligence has allowed him to catch up in recent weeks.

Tight end Allen Reisner drew a parallel between the work ethic of Coker and the work ethic of ex-Hawkeye lineman Bryan Bulaga, who now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

"I think Marcus is going along that road too. He's done well," Reisner said. "Adam [Robinson] gets all the carries, but Marcus is in there paying attention in the film room, too."

Ferentz noted that confidence can sometimes be the biggest issue for a true freshman, but Vandervelde doesn't think that should be the case for Coker.

"If Marcus needs any confidence, he just has to go back and look at his game film already.
"He still needs to work on his reads, and there are things that a freshman can improve on, obviously. But there are things that all of us can improve on," Vandervelde said. "I think he's playing as well as any freshman I've ever seen start here."

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