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Iowa fans needn’t worry about lack of a featured rusher

[ 0 ] April 5, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Variety can lead to consternation.

If the Iowa football team takes a running back-by-committee approach into the 2014 season, skeptics will stress over the lack of a featured rusher.

If you’re one of those people, chill.

After all, Mark Weisman doesn’t seem to mind sharing the load.

“I think that’s a good thing,” the senior fullback said. “We have so many good running backs.

“It’s a crowded backfield, which is a good backfield.”

The Hawkeye faithful will always pine for the next Shonn Greene (1,850 yards, 307 carries in 2008), but Weisman makes a valid point.

Iowa boasts four viable options — Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock and LeShun Daniels Jr. — who ran for a combined 2,065 yards last season while averaging 4.5 yards per rush.

“LeShun has obviously got the power. He’s got quickness, too,” Weisman said. “Damon has got his own style. He’ll run you over, but he’s also got that quickness.

“And Jordan is just guns-blazing fast.”

Redshirt freshmen Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley could add even more depth.

“They’ve got moves,” Weisman said. “I’ve never seen people move like that, change directions so fast.

“It’s fun to see all of them out there.”

Fans tend to take comfort in a primary tailback.

Watching Canzeri or Daniels dart past defenders and then spend a series on the sidelines can be exasperating.

But in this day and age, workhorses have become an endangered species.

Weisman rushed 119 times for 615 yards in Iowa’s first five games last season, averaging 5.2 per attempt.

Then his body began to wear down.

He contributed just 108 carries and 360 yards in the last seven games, averaging 3.3 yards per attempt.

Add it all up and Weisman fell 25 yards shy of the 1,000 plateau.

“Wins are the only thing that matter,” Weisman said of missing that milestone. “It doesn’t matter really about stats for me and most guys on this team.

“I think that’s why we had a better season last year, and why we’re going to improve this year, too.”

History shows the Hawkeyes don’t need a dominant lead dog to be successful, as long as they’re all pulling in the right direction.

Since 2000, there have been 10 seasons in which an Iowa running back finished with more than 200 carries. The average win total for those teams was 7.6.

In the four seasons without a back getting 200 carries, the Hawkeyes averaged 7.8 wins.

That will likely be the case this fall, especially with Canzeri hitting stride last November (running for 332 yards on 43 carries during a four-game stretch).

“I thought he was confident before,” Weisman said of Canzeri. “He knew what he could do and he just had to get that opportunity.

“When he got the opportunity, he created so many sparks for this team — big runs and big plays.”

Daniels is expected to do the same after showing glimpses of his potential as a freshman.

“He got a lot stronger than he already was,” Weisman said of Daniels’ development. “He’s faster, too. He’s going to be a big-time player for us.”

The Hawkeyes appear to have a wealth of potential when it comes to running backs — perhaps more than at any point since Kirk Ferentz took over the program in 1999 — so why not enjoy the ride?

“They all work together,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “They all know that they’re all going to play.

“It’s not just one guy going out there. It kind of depends on how the game is going and how the day is going.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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