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Harty: Hawkeye running backs pick up the slack

[ 0 ] September 18, 2012 |



Lost in the Mark Weisman hysteria from Saturday is the fact that Damon Bullock was wreaking havoc on the Northern Iowa defense until he suffered a head injury early in the second quarter.

Bullock was well on his way to his second 100-yard rushing performance in three games, gaining 77 yards in slightly more than a quarter.

The Mansfield, Texas, native was showing many of the skills that are common with big-time running backs, skills such as patience and elusiveness and vision.

It’s unlikely that Bullock will get to show those skills against Central Michigan. But his time will come again and when it does, look for Bullock to only get better.

Damon Bullock likely won’t play Saturday against Central Michigan, but the senior proved he belonged Saturday against Northern Iowa. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Bullock as a true sophomore is similar in many ways to the team for which he plays. He’s still inexperienced and mostly unproven, but you can see the pieces coming together.

“He was playing more decisively and more confident and that’s kind of representative of our football team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news gathering. “It was encouraging until he got knocked out of the game.

“Hopefully, we’ll get him back quickly and we can build on that.”

Until then, Weisman and his cohorts, whoever that might be, will have to hold down the fort.

Ferentz said Tuesday that true freshman running back Greg Garmon could be ready by Saturday. Garmon also left the Northern Iowa game in the second quarter, but with an elbow injury.

Garmon, unlike the first two games, looked comfortable and confident while competing against Northern Iowa. He also showed flashes of the explosiveness that made Garmon one of the most heavily recruited running backs to sign with Iowa under Ferentz.

“Unfortunately, Garmon’s window was pretty short, but we’re happy with the way he stepped in there, too,” Ferentz said. “It didn’t look like he was overwhelmed or anything like that.”

Ferentz also all but guaranteed that true freshman Michael Malloy would finally get his shot at running back Saturday after missing the Northern Iowa game with an illness.

Not to downplay any injury, especially a head injury to an Iowa running back, but this should help make the Hawkeyes better in the long run.

Weisman is hardly a proven product yet, but he’s no longer raw, either.

Defenses now have to consider Weisman when devising a scheme to stop Iowa. He gives the Hawkeyes a more diversified rushing attack because now you’ve got a bruiser to go along with all the cruisers. Weisman is the bang to Bullock and Garmon’s burst, especially running behind 230-pound fullback Brad Rogers.

“They both bring a different element, and we have a lot of confidence in both of those guys,” senior quarterback James Vandenberg said of Bullock and Weisman.

Another cruiser could be added to the mix after Ferentz told reporters Tuesday that sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri has been cleared to play. Canzeri was expected to be the starter this season until he suffered a knee injury in one of the first spring practices.

His injury paved the way for Bullock and now Bullock’s injury, coupled with Garmon’s injury, have paved the way for Weisman to make an impact.

It’s hard to picture Iowa’s passing attack being a strength this season for lots of reasons, including not having enough playmakers at receiver.

The Iowa offensive line also is better at run blocking than pass blocking at this stage, or so it seems.

It just shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

Iowa has been rocked by attrition at running back, but hardly decimated by it. The next-man-in philosophy still gets the job done.

This is nothing like 2004 when Iowa was forced to use fifth-team walk-on Sam Brownlee in order to have some semblence of a running game. And it’s a good thing because members of the star-studded 2004 defense aren’t walking through the door anytime soon unless they’re coming back to visit.

So instead of getting bummed out by all the adversity at running back, be thankful that somebody is always there to pick up the slack. It’s been a remarkable display of depth and perseverance.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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