Jordan Canzeri took the handoff, darted around right end and ran head-first into a defender. A pop of the pads later, the running back kept his balance, spun and gained a few more yards before being dragged down.
It was just one play in Iowa’s 2-hour 20-minute football practice Sunday at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. But it was a significant sign that Canzeri is back, maybe better than ever.
“I’m really excited now,” said Canzeri, who will be a sophomore this season.
A program that has struggled to build depth at running back because of injuries and transfers now has some choices. Canzeri will join Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman in the mix.
Canzeri made his first career start as a true freshman, replacing suspended Marcus Coker in the 2011 Insight Bowl against Oklahoma. Canzeri had nine carries for 56 yards and caught six passes, including one for his first career touchdown, in the 31-14 loss.
But Canzeri tore an ACL in his knee during a non-contact drill in spring ball last year and had surgery. Six months later, he was cleared to play and itching to get back on the field.
“I just wanted to help my team out in any way possible,” Canzeri said.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was tempted to put Canzeri back on the field in 2012, especially after Bullock, Weisman and the departed Greg Garmon took turns being sidelined with injuries.
“He practiced really well last year, and I was half tempted to throw him back in there the last couple of weeks,” Ferentz said. “It didn’t make sense at that point.”
Canzeri was all in with his coach’s decision.
“I was eager to play, for sure,” Canzeri said. “Anyone would be, coming back from an injury like that, having to sit out that long. But not having to burn a year and be 100 percent ready to go this year, I definitely thought that was a bessing.”
Canzeri, who said he’s stronger and faster than he was at the time of his injury, could find himself on the field in several different roles this season. For one, he’s been taking some snaps in the slot.
“They’re putting me out there,” Canzeri said. “It’s a fun experience, to play a different position and learn that, too. Just knowing that there’s another spot where I can be able to help out and contribute to the team, that’s exciting.”
Canzeri is also one of several players in contention for kick return duties.
“It’s just a matter of who, during practice, is the best,” Canzeri said. “I would love to do it. I did it in high school and it’s a really exciting thing to do. So if I get a chance, I’d love to.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football