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Wadley, Parker have same issues

BY DANNY PAYNE | NOVEMBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Ask Akrum Wadley a question about his teammate, Jonathan Parker, and his ears perk up. The running backs live together, and it’s easy to get the sense they’re competitive in more ways than one.

Should an argument come up around the house, Wadley said he and Parker — who happen to be two of the fastest guys on Iowa’s roster — normally race to settle the dispute.

“If we get in a argument over something, we just race,” Wadley said. “One-on-one, whoever wins can have it.”

Their similarities run deeper than just their speed, however.

In Iowa’s second game of the season, a narrow 17-13 win over Ball State, Parker fumbled twice. It was reasonable to believe the redshirt freshman would sparingly see the field again.

He returned two weeks later at Purdue, having somewhat of an impact in Iowa’s rushing attack. Since that time, he’s carried the ball 7 times for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Until an atrocious performance from Iowa last weekend at Minnesota — to which Parker was no exception — he was the top-rated kickoff returner in the Big Ten.

Sure, the numbers may not jump off the page, but Parker has bounced back from the adversity he faced early on in the season.

Now it’s Wadley’s turn to do the same, and his head coach will help him do that, drawing from experience with Parker.

“Same thing with Jonathan, really,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Jonathan practiced and played well. You can tell he’s fully invested … But as long as they’re demonstrating in the areas we evaluate that they’re really trying to move forward, then you just have to live with those things sometimes.”

Even though Wadley is Iowa’s lone 100-yard rusher over the course of the past 369 days, he’s had troubles in the two games in which he’s carried the ball.

There was the fumble against Northwestern, when Wadley said it crossed his mind to set his sights on spring ball. Then came another fumble — this time against Minnesota.

Shortly before halftime, Wadley made one guy miss in the backfield, then stumbled as Gopher strong safety Cedric Thompson came in run support and punched the ball from his left hand.

The running back is shifty as can be. He has every move to make defenders miss in his arsenal, but he has struggled to hang onto the ball at times.

This is fairly common, said Mark Weisman, who has only put the ball on the ground three times in his Iowa career.

“You just have to focus on the details,” Weisman said. “He’s probably been running that way his whole life, with the ball out there, and it hasn’t come to haunt him.

“College is a little different now. Guys are bigger, stronger, and trying to get that ball out.”

Wadley knows much of the same. He said running-back coach Chris White has told him he can spin all he wants as long as he doesn’t fumble the ball.

His fumble in Minneapolis wasn’t because of one of those instances but rather a young player making a mistake.

If Parker is any indication of how Wadley will bounce back after two fumbles in as many games, don’t expect to see much of a drop in production.

“With younger guys, you’ll have to ride the roller coaster a little bit and you hang on, Ferentz said. “… But all that being said, you can bring back Vince Lombardi; there are certain things that are going to happen, sometimes, and you just have to try to weather that.”

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


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