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Running back situation up in the air for Iowa

[ 0 ] September 6, 2010 |

Iowa City, Ia. — Jewel Hampton’s 20-month wait to get back on the field with the Iowa football team is nearing its end, and perhaps no other Hawkeye is more excited than the one who could lose the most from it.

At last on Saturday the spotlight in Iowa’s backfield shined on Adam Robinson. There was no more chatter about Brandon Wegher’s whereabouts or buzz about Hampton’s return from an ACL tear when Robinson lugged the ball 24 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-7 win against Eastern Illinois.

Iowa running back Adam Robinson ran for 107 yards last Saturday against Eastern Illinois, but might have to split carries with Jewel Hampton on Saturday against Iowa State. Christopher Gannon/The Register

It was Robinson’s show. The 24 carries were the second-highest total of the sophomore’s career, but Hampton, who returns from a one-game suspension this week, could cut into Robinson’s workload.

“It was a unique situation at the beginning of camp when all three of us were competing for playing time, and unfortunately Brandon left the team and he’s taking care of some personal issues,” Robinson said. “But I’m excited to get Jewel back. He’s an awesome back, he brings a lot to the table and he’s only going to make our team stronger.”

Hampton’s return might make Robinson stronger, too. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeyes haven’t talked extensively about how their running back responsibilities will be divided with Hampton in the equation. Hampton shared the second-team line with senior Paki O’Meara on Monday when Iowa released its depth chart for Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

“I can only tell you Jewel has practiced well,” Ferentz said. “He’s done a great job this camp and shown great effort, and it’s all good. We have two guys we feel can be really effective runners for us, and they are a little bit different in style.”

Linebacker Jeff Tarpinian and center Josh Koeppel were listed on the second team, while cornerback Shaun Prater, offensive guard Adam Gettis and kicker Daniel Murray were not listed on the depth chart Monday. All five players sat out Saturday against Eastern Illinois. Ferentz indicated after the game that all five had a chance to play against the Cyclones (1-0).

Iowa sophomore running back Jewel Hampton, right, is expected to return to the field Saturday after missing the Hawkeyes opening win against Eastern Illinois because of suspension. Matthew Holst/Press-Citizen

Along with Hampton, junior defensive end Broderick Binns will make his return from a one-game suspension against the Cyclones. With Binns out of the lineup, Iowa shifted defensive tackle Christian Ballard outside to defensive end, the position where he started his career with the Hawkeyes, and inserted junior Mike Daniels into the starting lineup at defensive tackle.

Daniels collected five tackles, including 1.5 for losses and a sack against Eastern Illinois, and it appears he has played himself into a five-man rotation on the defensive line. The Hawkeyes listed Daniels and Ballard as co-starters at defensive tackle and Ballard and Binns as co-starters at defensive end.

It’s possible the Hawkeyes could rotate at running back as well. Hampton rushed for 463 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in an apprentice role to Shonn Greene as a true freshman in 2008. He penciled in as Iowa’s starter in 2009, but knee injury derailed his season before it started and left two freshmen to handle the work for the Hawkeyes at running back.

Robinson became the starter by the second week, rushing for an Iowa freshman-record 834 yards, despite missing two games with an ankle injury and rotating with Wegher on every other series. Wegher rushed for 641 yards and set a school freshman record with eight touchdowns.

The Hawkeyes started camp with three productive running backs. Then Wegher left the team on Aug. 8. Hampton’s suspension left Robinson as the only member of the troika available for the opener.

“I really wasn’t focusing on that aspect or that issue of the game,” Robinson said. “I just wanted to go out and help my team win, and I think I did a good job of that.”

Robinson matched his career high with 109 yards — he had 109 yards on 27 carries last year against Michigan State — and caught three passes for 43 yards.

“Last year, he jumped in there and he just kind of played like he had been there before,” Ferentz said. “Adam is an interesting guy. He never seems like he’s too fazed by anything and really did a good job. I think he’s probably just a little smarter player now, a little bit more experienced. I’m eager to see the film, but it looked like he did a good job of making decisions out there and he’s a good pass protector. He’s not at all bashful about that.

“He really quietly has developed into a pretty good football player, and we are really excited about his future.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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