Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Running backs


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Greg Davis can’t count on much when it comes to his team’s running-back situation. After watching almost all his options at the position vanish over the summer, Iowa’s new offensive coordinator understands almost nothing is a certainty. 

That’s what makes Brad Rogers so valuable.

“We talk about how the best ability is dependability, and he has that to a ‘T,’ ” Davis said at the team’s media day on Aug. 6. “We know what we’re going to get from him every single day.”

Running-back coach Lester Erb agreed.

“Brad is a dependable guy. He really is,” Erb said. “He’s a guy who we can always rely on.”

Rogers is the only one of the five players head coach Kirk Ferentz said will be in Iowa’s backfield mix with significant playing time. The others include sophomore tailback Damon Bullock, freshmen Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy, and fullback Mark Weisman.

Rogers’ time has come almost exclusively at fullback, where he paved the way for many of Marcus Coker’s 1,384 yards in 2011. But as the Hawkeyes’ ball-carrying options dwindle, it becomes more and more likely that Rogers takes a few handoffs this year.

But the Toledo, Ohio native isn’t making any assumptions. He, too, has seen how quickly things can change.

“I really don’t know,” Rogers said about his role for Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois. “Coach has talked to me about playing both [halfback and fullback]. … You never know. It all depends on how the game goes. Anything can happen. Injuries can happen.”

Something worse than an injury almost happened to Rogers two seasons ago. During bowl preparation in December 2010, doctors discovered an ailment in his heart. He was given a 50-percent chance of ever playing football again.

But he recovered — perhaps miraculously, considering he’s an Iowa running back — and returned four games into last season. The team’s running game showed an immediate boost, and Rogers was named the team’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Having withstood that setback, Rogers is a soft-spoken team leader. Davis said he works so well with the young backs that he’s “like an assistant coach.” The junior showed that type of perspective when talking about Iowa’s rash of injuries and suspensions at his position.

“At this point, all we can say is everybody [has to] be prepared,” Rogers said. “From the true freshmen on up, everybody has to come in and know what to do.”

That’s why Rogers spent fall camp studying the plays for both positions: He’s preparing himself to play either. His proven track record as a lead blocker makes him a good option as a fullback. But in high school, he showed ability running with the ball, too. He scored 18 rushing touchdowns in his career at Central Catholic High School in Toledo.

This week, Rogers insisted he had no preference. But back on Aug. 6, he gave a sheepish grin and admitted to one. The answer was both surprising and revealing.

“Actually, I really like fullback a lot,” he said. “I get excited more for when other people score, especially when I’m the lead blocker. It’s more proud for me knowing I helped somebody else score.”

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