Point/counterpoint: Which football frosh will have biggest impact this season?

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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MIka’il McCall, running back

Say it with me: mick-A-el.

OK, so maybe you’re still unsure how to properly pronounce Mika’il.

That won’t be a problem for long, though, as Iowa’s Mika’il McCall will make the biggest impact this fall of any player from the class of 2011.

This question is all about opportunity, and the true freshman running back should have plenty of opportunities.

While sophomore Marcus Coker has the starting spot locked up, recent history shows the No. 2 running back in Iowa’s system plays an important role.

Over the past five seasons, the Hawkeyes’ second-leading rusher has averaged 120 carries per year.

Despite the fact Jason White was listed as the No. 2 running back when Iowa’s latest depth chart was released last Friday, McCall should have no problem overtaking the redshirt junior. In White’s first two years of playing, he has switched from running back to defensive back and now back to the backfield — with a grand total of one career carry.

Another important factor in McCall’s impact will be Coker’s health. There is no need to doubt his potential — that was on display in last year’s Insight Bowl. However, Coker only owns four career starts, and it remains to be seen how he will handle an entire year as the primary ball carrier.

Listed at 6-0 and 215 pounds, McCall is also the biggest running back after Coker — yet another reason to believe he is ready for the Big Ten. His size and ability caught the attention of many in attendance during an open practice on Aug. 13.

Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater in particular was impressed following McCall’s showing in mid-August.

“For him being 6-0 1/2, almost 230, he’s very shifty,” Prater said. “He’s shifty, he’s powerful, he can catch, he can run — he can do it all. We’re all looking forward to him making big plays this year.”

So, too, should Hawkeye fans.

— by Ben Schuff

Darian Cooper, defensive tackle

With NFL draft picks Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug gone, the Iowa defensive line has room for players to step up and make an impact.

Enter true freshman Darian Cooper.

The 6-2, 280-pound Cooper will prove to be Iowa’s top true freshman this season.

Cooper was a force to be reckoned with throughout his high-school career. As a Rivals.com three-star senior at DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) — where he played with Coker and freshman defensive back Jordan Lomax — Cooper recorded 10 sacks, forced four fumbles, and was named defensive MVP of the Baltimore area.

This production will translate well to Norm Parker’s Hawkeye defense, and Cooper has already made his presence felt.

The highly recruited defensive tackle from Elkridge, Md., reported late to camp due to what has only been called a “complication,” but has impressed coaches with his skills against the offensive line and will likely see some action at defensive tackle behind projected starters Thomas Nardo and Mike Daniels.

In a conference with mobile quarterbacks such as Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez, and Northwestern’s Dan Persa, having a slew of talented players to keep the line fresh is critical — as was shown multiple times last season, when the line routinely looked gassed at the end of games. Cooper will help provide that element, which was missing from the 2010 Iowa team.

Cooper was one of Iowa’s top 2011 recruits, and he’ll prove why this season by becoming an integral part of the Hawkeye defensive line.

— by Ryan Murphy

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