IOWA CITY, Ia. The Weisman for Heisman chatter has subsided.
And that’s just fine with Mark Weisman, the once unheralded fullback who became an Iowa football fan favorite last fall.
“I still try to stay low key,” he said with a sheepish grin. “Hopefully, not too many people recognize me or anything like that.”
Weisman, a transfer from the Air Force Academy, was buried on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart until he rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns in a September win against Northern Iowa.
The 6-foot, 225-pound native of Buffalo Grove, Ill., continued to go about his business while others came up with catchy slogans and touted him as a tongue-in-cheek candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
“I just laughed at it,” Weisman said of his sudden fame. “It’s just funny. Obviously, it’s crazy.”
The mood for Saturday’s 2 p.m. scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium will be much more serious.
“We’re trying new things out there,” said Weisman, a junior to be. “We’re all trying to get better, see what works.”
Weisman is now a stabilizing force on an offense that lacks a proven quarterback.
He was Iowa’s leading rusher in 2012, finishing with 815 yards (an average of 5.1 per carry) and eight touchdowns.
“It was fun last year,” Weisman said, “but last year is way in the past.”
Expectations will be even higher, especially under first-year running backs coach Chris White.
“I’m trying to make Mark a big-time back, and he’s buying in,” White said. “He’s not just a slobberknocker. I want Mark to break arm tackles. I want Mark to really stick his foot in the ground and run through a guy or run around a guy or stiff-arm a guy or break a tackle.”
White also would like to see Weisman become a potential passing target.
“That’s the thing that I’m challenging Mark to be, a complete back and catching the ball out of the backfield,” White said. “He’s perfectly capable of doing that.”
The Hawkeyes hope to have versatility in the backfield when Weisman and junior-to-be Damon Bullock (513 yards, 3.8 per carry) line up together.
“With Mark being the featured running back and vice versa, I think we can do more from one personnel package and get into multiple formations,” White said.
Injuries prevented Weisman and Bullock from being a tandem last season.
This spring also has been a chance for Jordan Canzeri, a 5-9, 192-pound sophomore-to-be, to earn playing time.
“Those guys are great running backs,” Weisman said. “We all bring something different to the table, and it’s going to be exciting to see how that works in the fall.”
Despite the emergence of Weisman, the Hawkeyes slumped to 4-8 a year ago.
The offense averaged 123 rushing yards per game, ranking last in the Big Ten Conference and 101st nationally out of 120 teams.
“It’s tough on all of us,” Weisman said of Iowa’s struggles. “We’re all angry about it, knowing we had better players than our record was showing.
“You just have to move on from it, learn from it.”
When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday, Kinnick Stadium
Admission, parking: Free and free. Gates open at 1 p.m., and the south and west stands will be open.
Format: Four quarters. Touchdowns, extra points and field goals will count the same as a typical game. The offense can earn a point with three first downs in a row, or with a running play of 12 yards or pass play of 16 yards. The defense can score three points by forcing a turnover. A three-and-out is worth one point. A sack is good for two points. A “sudden-change” play in the red zone is worth four points.
On air: Listen on WHO-AM (1040) or watch on BTN2GO.com. The scrimmage will be shown tape-delayed from 7-9 p.m. Sunday on Big Ten Network.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football