Hawkeye RB Garmon prepares for heavy workload in Weisman's absence


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Greg Garmon had strict and specific orders when he trotted onto the field to start overtime on Oct. 13.

Running back Mark Weisman had left the game after injuring his ankle while busting his way into the end zone to force overtime. Hawkeye coaches weren’t looking for a similar effort from Garmon.

“How honest do you want me to be about this?” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He ran out of bounds about eight times. And that was OK, as long as the ball didn’t go on the ground. That’s kind of where we were at on Saturday. A nice run would really have been good, but ball security is critical, especially at that juncture.”

Weisman might stay on the sidelines on Saturday against Penn State with the ankle injury. In that case, Iowa would need a lot more from Garmon than just hanging on to the ball.

The Hawkeyes are dead last in the Big Ten in pass efficiency. James Vandenberg is throwing for just 189 yards per game. For long stretches this season, Iowa has only been able to move the ball by handing it off to Weisman.

Garmon, a true freshman, hasn’t shown the same decisiveness or vision in limited action. He’s gained just 35 yards on 14 carries and hasn’t had a carry of longer than 9 yards. And he won’t be able to grind out the tough yards against a physical defense as has Weisman, who outweighs Garmon by at least 25 pounds.

But teammates say they saw good things from Garmon in his emergency duty against the Spartans. Center James Ferentz said the offensive line didn’t create big enough holes during overtime and Garmon showed impressive patience.

“He was looking to make the play, but he wasn’t looking to force the play,” he said. “So that’s really encouraging for a true-freshman running back.”

Iowa hopes a full week of practice as a starter will help him make those plays on the field rather than simply not forcing them.

“I’m sure he’s really excited for the opportunity,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “And getting a lot of reps with the first-team is definitely going to help.”

Kirk Ferentz said the team would “try to compensate a little bit and spread it around” without Weisman. Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said the pressure was on the receivers to produce, because “the run game, we won’t go to it as much maybe.”

But still, if Weisman misses the game, a heavy load will almost certainly fall on Garmon to help the Hawkeyes move the ball. And Ferentz sounded confident he would be ready for it.

“That was a pretty tough circumstance — bad weather and the opponent was pretty tough,” he said. “He did his job, and he allowed us to keep fighting, which is good. He’ll be better this week.”

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