Canzeri emerges as option in Iowa run game


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Kirk Ferentz was a little worried.

He couldn't help it when he elected to send Jordan Canzeri, his 5-9, 172-pound true freshman running back, in for his first career carry.

"One of our concerns was his size," Ferentz said during a press conference Thursday.

Canzeri took the handoff and darted left, pitting him against an oncoming Louisiana-Monroe defender.

"A guy came up and whacked him at the line. He kept going," the 13th-year Iowa coach said.

He kept going for a first down — and then some. Canzeri gained 12 yards on that play, and another dozen two plays later. He finished with 30 yards on five carries against the Warhawks on Sept. 24.

Ferentz said Canzeri has "elevated himself" in Iowa's running-back mix, which has been pretty sparse after starter Marcus Coker. Coker and quarterback James Vandenberg account for more than 100 of Iowa's average of 132.5 rushing yards per game.

"He's a quick learner," offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe said about Canzeri. "Seems like he's pretty hungry right now, so we'll see what happens."

Vandenberg said he's enjoyed watching the quick progression of the Troy, N.Y., native.

"He's just this little guy," Vandenberg said. "He works so hard, though, and he's very intelligent. I've tried to take him under my wing as much as I can and just keep him up to date with the offense. He did a great job [on Sept. 24], and I know I'm really comfortable with him back there."

After nine true freshmen saw the field all of last season, Canzeri is one of 10 true freshmen to play for Iowa through four games this year.

Ferentz didn't rule out playing more, either.

"If a situation arises where we think they can help us, we're going to put them in there," Ferentz said. "As long as they're agreeable to it — they get a vote on that also."

Rogers cleared for action

Fullback Brad Rogers said in August passing a medical test was all that stood between him and his return to the field. Ferentz said Thursday Rogers was recently cleared and has been practicing on a "very limited basis."

An undisclosed heart condition saw Rogers pulled out of practice prior to the Insight Bowl last December.

Rogers' situation is now similar to that of Nolan MacMillan, Ferentz said, who also recently returned after being out since spring practice with a sports hernia.

"Both have missed so much work of all types, whether it be strength and conditioning, [and] needless to say, the football," Ferentz said. "It's just a matter of how quickly they can get caught up and get back with everybody without putting themselves in danger of blowing out a hamstring or something like that."

Additionally, "there's an outside chance" Mika'il McCall could return to the field in November, Ferentz said. The true freshman running back broke his ankle in Iowa's season-opener.

"Mentally, we just have to assume that he's not going to make it back," Ferentz said. "Given the position he plays, it's probably unrealistic. But you never know."

Nielsen nominated for scholar award

Linebacker Tyler Nielsen was named a candidate for the 2011 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award and the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy on Thursday.

Requirements for the awards include that players be seniors or graduate students in their final year of eligibility, have at least a 3.2 GPA, make a significant contribution to their football team, and demonstrate strong leadership and citizenship.

The senior linebacker from Humboldt, Iowa, is one of 127 nominees.

Nielsen started Iowa's first eight games in 2010 before suffering a broken vertebrae in his neck. He has recorded 12 tackles this season.

The Awards Committee will choose up to 16 recipients, with the results announced on Oct. 26. Each recipient will compete as finalists for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy.

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