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Redefining Bullock as a running back

BY JACOB SHEYKO | SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Senior running back Damon Bullock has just 6 carries for 27 yards through the first two football games of the season. That’s an average of just three rushes per game. Let that sink in for a moment.

Still, Bullock has managed to continually get his hands on the ball. In those same two games, he’s caught 10 passes for 51 yards. It’s a drastic increase compared to last year, when he had just 20 catches in 13 games.

Instead of pushing Bullock out of the constantly rotating backfield, it seems that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has just found a new role for the senior.

“We all have different roles,” Bullock said at Iowa’s media day. “We’re all versatile, Mark [Weisman] is a power back, [Jordan] Canzeri is quicker, and myself, I can say that I’m versatile, I can pass block and also catch the ball.”

Iowa’s running game has yet to come to fruition, but Bullock’s assessment of what he brings to the table has been spot on.

The Mansfield, Texas, native has been a steady pass-catcher out of the backfield despite a 4.5-yards-per-carry average in the running game. That average tops all Iowa running backs that have seen significant action.

He also brings something to the table that goes unnoticed by many, something Ferentz was quick to point out.

“He did a really nice job, not only things that you saw, but maybe if you watch some of his blocking and things like that, he really did a good job,” Ferentz said. “He got nailed on that one play, and the next play he came back and blocked the heck out of one of their guys.  So I think he was mad getting knocked around.”

In that regard, Bullock is perhaps the most versatile of Iowa’s tailbacks, though an argument could also be made for Jordan Canzeri.

Bullock has also lined up several times in the slot this season, mainly when Iowa goes with an empty backfield.

Wide receiver Tevaun Smith said Bullock’s versatility also helps the receivers by spreading the field and giving opposing linebackers another threat to worry about.

“Other than throwing to us, [Jake Rudock] can throw to the backs, and they can make stuff happen with their feet once they catch the ball,” he said.

Bullock fits the prototypical running back mold for Iowa’s quarterback Jake Rudock, who tends to throw to the flat or short across the middle of the field after going through his progressions.

Often, the player on the end of that throw is Bullock — he’s been targeted 15 times this season, by far the most among the running backs. (Canzeri is second with 4 targets.)

“We’ve known that he can catch the ball really well. He does a good job of coming out of the backfield,” Rudock said about Bullock. “He does a good job of getting open, and he’s a really good check down because he can catch it and make a move too.”

This role didn’t come out of nowhere. Bullock led Iowa running backs last season in receptions, and coming into camp, the Iowa coaches expected this kind of production out of the backfield.

The expectations only increased when Bullock put together an impressive fall camp, one that Ferentz called the best period of football coaches had seen from him.

“It’s exciting,” Smith said. “To have him making plays, it opens it up for the whole offense.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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