Coker brings humility, maturity to the Iowa offense

BY SETH ROBERTS | JUNE 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Marcus Coker is an extremely bright guy, but the astrophysics major doesn’t like to talk about his academics.

He’s a hell of a football player and Iowa’s No. 1 tailback, but he doesn’t like to talk about that, either.
As far as anyone can tell, the sophomore from Beltsville, Md., doesn’t like to talk very much about anything, period.

“He’s a quiet guy, good guy, humble guy — he’s not just like that to the media,” offensive lineman Markus Zusevics said last week. “His locker is next to mine, [and] I know how he is. He’s not a guy to get a big head or anything.”

That humility was apparent when Coker addressed the press on June 21.

He said he hasn’t approached being coach Kirk Ferentz’s featured running back any differently than he did when he was buried on the depth chart last summer — in fact, he said, he hasn’t thought about the change at all, and he just wants to get better every day.

The 6-0, 230-pound tailback, who is taking two classes this summer, said his stress-management course is causing him more difficulty than his calculus class.

Perhaps the most telling answer he gave, though, came when he was asked about his expectations for the upcoming season.

“I expect us to come out there every day and every game and give it our all,” Coker said. “I’m not going to make any proclamations, like Big Ten championships or anything, but I know we’re going to play our hearts out every game.”

It might sound like a cliché, but that’s not a bad mantra coming from a player who will be asked to shoulder a hefty amount of responsibility on a young and largely unproven offense.

Coker enters the season as one of the few veterans of offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s attack, despite being a sophomore with only four starts under his belt. The No. 1 quarterback this year, James Vandenberg, has started two games, and he threw just eight passes last season.

The most experience on the offense is among the receivers, but even the talented Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis haven’t been exposed as No. 1 and No. 2 targets, respectively — and Davis has never started.

“The young guys who are playing … these are not seasoned veterans. These are guys that are still learning what to do,” O’Keefe said before the team’s spring game in April. “In my opinion, you’re not successful unless that unit, team, [and] player is doing everything that they potentially are capable of doing.”

The only thing the team can do, then, is follow Coker’s example and approach the game with a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality.

And while looking to Coker as a leader might seem like a lot of pressure for a 19-year-old sophomore, the tailback said he’s not bothered by the added responsibility.

“The way I deal with stress, I just don’t think about it,” he said. “I look at [the work] as being fun. You come out and work every day, you’re tired when you leave, and it feels good.”

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