Notebook: Running backs aplenty for Iowa football

BY CODY GOODWIN | JUNE 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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The signs look favorable — at least for the moment — that, come August, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz will be blessed with something he didn’t have much of during last year’s abysmal 4-8 campaign.

Ferentz spoke positively on Tuesday about the possibility that Iowa might have depth at running back for the upcoming season.

“That would be a real help to us,” he said. “That’s something that made it a real challenge last year.”

Finding a consistent running game was certainly troublesome for the Hawkeyes. Last season alone saw one dismissal (De’Andre Johnson) and three injures (to Barkley Hill, Damon Bullock, and Greg Garmon) before the month of October.

Those were piled on top of two transfers (Mika’il McCall and Marcus Coker) and another injury (Jordan Canzeri) that occurred earlier in the 2012 calendar year.

These events, while unfortunate, made way for one of last season’s few feel-good stories. Mark Weisman emerged, tallying 815 rushing yards on 159 carries. His 81.5 yards per game rushing average was good for ninth in the Big Ten.

That showing also moved Weisman from fullback to tailback. The position switch has slightly altered Weisman’s summer training regimen, allowing him to work on technique that tailors more to carrying the ball than blocking for the runner.

“I know [running-Back coach] Chris White was trying to work with him on his cutting, his flexibility, things like that,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think his training changes a lot, as far as the way he does train, or his weight, or anything like that.”

In addition to Weisman, Iowa’s depth in the backfield will come from Bullock — who will also spend some plays from the slot position — as well as Canzeri and Hill, who both have recovered from ACL injuries that sat them down last season. Michael Malloy, who redshirted last season, will also be on scholarship in the fall, giving Iowa up to five choices at running back.

This, of course, is only possible if they all stay healthy.

“Injuries are tough,” Weisman said. “You can’t avoid them sometimes. You just have to work to get more durable in the off-season. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”

‘Impressive leadership’

Ferentz was overall positive about everything he has been hearing from his team — and he said it begins with the established leadership on the team.

Three of those leaders, all linebackers, have taken the past four weeks of summer workouts to not only establish themselves as leaders of the team but to make sure they’re all on the same page as leaders, too.

“I don’t want to have a losing season again,” senior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re all thinking right now … it’s our last go-around. Just go out with a bang with my team.”

Ferentz listed his three senior linebackers — Kirksey, James Morris, and Anthony Hitchens — as part of the Leadership Group earlier this month. And like many of the other members of the group, all three of them want to make sure the 2012 season isn’t replicated.

“A lot of that stuff is really unspoken, too,” Morris said. “Every guy has his own concept of what a leader is, and what a leader needs to do. That’s what makes a team work. It’s all these different guys working toward the same goal.”

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