IOWA CITY, Ia. — Albert Young and a few buddies were talking about Iowa football recently, when the subject turned to running backs.
“Someone wanted to know what the deal was at that position,” recalled Young, one of the best recent tailbacks to play for the Hawkeyes. “I wish I had an answer.”
Add coach Kirk Ferentz to the list of people wondering why recent Iowa tailbacks have been unable to finish what they started.
“Don’t keep it a secret if you find out,” Ferentz said after his weekly press conference Tuesday.
Next in line in the attempt to be the first Hawkeye since Shonn Greene in 2008 to start both an opener and finale in the same season is Damon Bullock.
He gets the call in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
“I plan on being out there until the finish of the season,” Bullock said at media day. “What’s happened in the past is in the past. This is a new season.”
Marcus Coker started the first game last year, then it was Jordan Canzeri in the Insight Bowl finale. Adam Robinson took the first handoff of 2010, and Coker started the last game.
In 2009, it was Paki O’Meara in the opener, then Robinson at the end.
Three seasons. Three starting tailbacks who couldn’t go the distance.
“That’s a tough one to figure out,” said Young, a coaching “intern” at Colorado, primarily assisting with the running backs. “I get asked a lot about it, but I really don’t know how to explain it.
“It’s not conditioning, because the guys are doing the same conditioning that we did. I’m going to say it’s just a string of bad luck right now. Some things you just can’t control.”
Robinson was kicked off the team. Coker and Mika’il McCall transferred. Injuries hit Jewel Hampton. Canzeri underwent ACL surgery in March.
“We’re down to three guys we can envision going into the ball game,” Ferentz said. “Damon is the most experienced, but he’s hardly a seasoned player.”
The three – Bullock, and true freshmen Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy – will rush against a veteran defense that includes 10 starters from last season’s 11-3 outfit that beat Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Bullock has 10 career carries for 20 yards. Garmon and Malloy played high school ball last fall.
“Both of those guys may go the wrong way a time or two,” Ferentz said. “We anticipate that.”
Bullock may go the wrong way, too, but at least he’s got six games of experience.
“Like everyone, I’ve got things to prove,” Bullock said.
Like having enough stamina to join Ladell Betts, Fred Russell, Young, and Greene as backs that started the first and last game of the same season since Ferentz became the coach in 1999.
Unless history repeats itself.
“We’re lucky that we’ve recruited enough guys that we can keep popping them in there,” quarterback James Vandenberg said.
“Damon has had a good camp, and Garmon and Malloy have both jumped in and taken reps and done better than I could ever imagine them doing as true freshmen.
“Those guys have really grown up quick.”
Here is a look at the running backs who have started the first game for the Hawkeyes in each of the past 13 seasons, how they fared and who wound up being the starter in the final game of the season.
2011 — Marcus Coker (So.) — 11-41-0 — Iowa 34, Tennessee Tech 7 — Jordan Canzeri
2010 — Adam Robinson (So.) — 24-109-3 — Iowa 37, Eastern Illinois 7 — Marcus Coker
2009 — Paki O’Meara (Jr.) — 9-16-0 — Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 16 — Adam Robinson
2008 — Shonn Greene (Jr.) — 22-109-1 — Iowa 46, Maine 3 — Shonn Greene
2007 — Albert Young (Sr.) — 24-144-1 — Iowa 16, Northern Illinois 3 — Albert Young
2006 — Albert Young (Jr.) — 19-93-1 — Iowa 41, Montana 7 — Albert Young
2005 — Marcus Schnoor (Sr.) — 6-14-1 — Iowa 56, Ball State 0 — Albert Young
2004 — Marcus Schnoor (Jr.) — 6-25-0 — Iowa 39, Kent State 7 — Sam Brownlee
2003 — Fred Russell (Sr.) — 22-167-1 — Iowa 21, Miami (Ohio) 3 — Fred Russell
2002 — Fred Russell (Jr.) — 14-170-1 — Iowa 57, Akron 21 — Fred Russell
2001 — Ladell Betts (Sr.) — 15-99-0 — Iowa 51, Kent State 0 — Ladell Betts
2000 — Ladell Betts (Jr.) — 10-50-1 — Kansas State 27, Iowa 7 — Ladell Betts
1999 — Ladell Betts (So.) — 15-73-0 — Nebraska 42, Iowa 7 — Ladell Betts
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football