Hawkeyes looking at depth at the running back position

BY MATT CABEL | AUGUST 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s been a troubled past few years for running backs on the Iowa football team, one plagued with numerous injuries, departures, and suspensions.

But as the beginning of the 2013 season draws near, the running-back position — barring injury — is one of the team’s deepest positions. Fullback converted running back Mark Weisman sits at the top of the depth chart, followed by Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri. The team also has redshirt freshmen Barkley Hill and Michael Malloy, who can make contributions.

“It makes everyone comfortable knowing that there’s a running back there that will get the job done,” Canzeri said. “If he goes down, there’s a running back behind him that will do the same job and get it done just as well. It just makes us a group closer, and you as an individual better, seeing and working against competition.”

Last year, injuries to Canzeri, Hill, and Bullock and lack of production from now departed halfback Greg Garmon led to the rise of Weisman, the walk-on fullback who switched to running back.

Weisman became an overnight sensation before getting injured scoring an overtime-forcing touchdown against Michigan State, but he still managed to rush for 815 yards.

“You can dream about it, but you don’t think it’s going to happen that way,” Weisman said about his quick rise to prominence. “You always have to be ready for it, because you never know when your opportunity is going to come.”

Because of the injuries, the team was never able to utilize a combination of Bullock and Weisman in the backfield. But with depth and health, both could become potent threats in the backfield. The duo combined to rush for 1,585 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, the second most of returning back combos among the other Big Ten schools.

“Both [Bullock] and Mark Weisman, I don’t know if we had any guys work harder than those two in the spring,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said at the team’s media day on Aug. 8. “They’re much better football players than they were last November. It’s a credit to both those guys. They’ve got great attitudes. They work hard. They’re two different style backs and different style players.”

Running-back coach Chris White said that he believes there are many ways that the running backs on his roster can affect the games, if they’re put into the right situation, speaking specifically about finding the proper placement for Bullock.

“We’re trying to get Damon in the right situation in terms of how he’s carrying the ball, how we can get him the ball through throwing the football,” White said. “Whether we’ll spread him out, or out of the backfield. We’re trying to really hone in on the packages that we want to have for the guys on the field.”

With Weisman now the established first team running back, followed by Bullock and Canzeri, the junior excited to begin the season as a starter. He and the other running backs feel prepared one of the most experienced positions on the team, and they’re okay with it.

“I just think if you prepare, you shouldn’t feel pressure,” Weisman said. “You should just go out there and have fun — that’s what we’re doing here: preparing, trying to get better. If you feel prepared for something, you shouldn’t be pressured.”

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