2014 Football Position Previews: Running Backs


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When Mark Weisman first lined up at running back for the Hawkeyes in 2012, it was out of necessity. 

Because of a stretch of transfers, suspensions, and injuries, Iowa’s once most reliable position was in the hands of a walk-on fullback. But that’s no longer the case.

Three running backs with significant experience return for Iowa for the 2014 season — all of whom ran for more than 400 yards last year. Head coach Kirk Ferentz seems to have moved past the question of who will be his running back and moved on to answering how he will divide up the workload.

“Right now, I think we have four guys that we can put in the game and have confidence in,” Ferentz said at the team’s media day. “So I think the challenge for us in that regard right now is to really figure out what the smartest way to use those guys would be during the course of the season.”

The biggest benefit for Ferentz in the backfield’s depth may be keeping them fresh, particularly Weisman.

In his first three games last season, Weisman carried the ball 85 times, more than anyone in the nation at the time. Over the next seven weeks, his carries dwindled to 11.7 per game.

Ferentz has made an effort to make sure that won’t happen again this season.

“It would be really better for us if we could have him fresh in the fourth quarter of every game, plus the fourth quarter of the season,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got to be careful about that.”

Each running back offers different skills. Weisman is known for his power, while Jordan Canzeri brings quickness. Damon Bullock can provide a threat out of the backfield in the passing game — last season he led Iowa running backs with 20 receptions.

This mix of styles gives Ferentz plenty of options. Instead of having to choose one or two ball carriers, all three running backs can complement each other.

“It’s great,” Bullock said. “All of us are fully capable of making plays and when one goes out another one comes in. We’re all versatile.”

Not only do the running backs complement each other on the field, they also made a conscious effort to help each other during the off-season. With running plays or drills this past summer, coaches stressed that each tailback watch and critique the others.

“We all really get along with each other,” Weisman said. “We try to make each other better out there. We compete with one another, but it’s definitely friendly competition.”

Whoever gets the ball on Saturdays — be it Weisman up the middle, Canzeri to the outside, or Bullock catching a pass — there will be one major difference for Ferentz: He will have options.

“Me, Mark, any of the guys, we’re humble, we’re not selfish,” Canzeri said. “Whoever’s in, no one is going to be upset about it because we know we’ll get the job done.”

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