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Ferentz happy with what he's seen from young running backs

August 28, 2012 - Andy Heintz
The running back situation at the University of Iowa is well-documented -- Don't get used to a Hawkeye tailback because he may be gone before you know it.

Whether it is from injury, discipline or transfer, Hawkeye running backs never seem to be able to stick with the program long term. And Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't have any answers.

"I can't really speculate on why it is what it is, but I can say that whoever we have had back there always finds a way to do well," Ferentz said. "We have played freshman back there before and been alright. We're used to playing younger guys at this point."

The Hawkeyes will have to play younger guys again in 2012. Last year's leading rusher Marcus Coker transferred as did the backup Mika'il McCall. Previous seasons have seen guys like Adam Robinson, Jewel Hampton, Brandon Wegher, Jeff Brinson and De'Andre Johnson come and go before any kind of long-term success.

Sophomore Jordan Canzeri is still in Iowa City, but likely won't play this season because of a torn ACL he suffered in the spring.

"He is in gear, but realistically, he is still weeks and probably months away from any kind of contact," Ferentz said. "His rehab is going well. We are happy about that. But those ACL injuries are tricky. They take time."

So, Ferentz will begin the season with running backs who have one or no years experience. The three top guys he mentioned at the Big Ten Teleconference Tuesday were sophomore Damon Bullock and true freshmen Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy.

"You have to play the cards that are dealt you," Ferentz said. "We have had young guys come in and have success, and I am confident that we can do that again with this group."

Another running back who could emerge this season includes JUCO transfer Andre Dawson. Fullbacks Brad Rogers and Mark Weisman will be valuable, and Rogers could even once again see some snaps at tailback.

"Anyone who is healthy and with us will likely see some action on Saturday," Ferentz said.

Healthy is a concern because if the backs are not getting in trouble (Johnson, Robinson) or transferring (Wegher, Hampton, Coker, McCall) then they are getting hurt (Canzeri and true freshman Barkley Hill).

Football is a contact sport and players will get hurt. But Ferentz and his staff still feel good about how they operate practices so that injuries are kept to a minimum.

"We play it pretty cautious with tackling," Ferentz said. "Everyone has their philosophy. We try to minimize the contact in practice. We feel good about how we handle it."

The Hawkeyes take on Northern Illinois in Chicago, Ill., at Soldier Field on Saturday. Kick off is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game can be seen nationally on ESPNU.

"We're eager to get going," Ferentz said. "Everyone's been practicing hard, and we're ready to go. We're playing a good Northern Illinois team, and it will be another tough challenge for us."

Northern Illinois went 11-3 last year and won its bowl game against Arkansas State. The Huskies have actually won nine straight games. However, quarterback Chandler Harnish is now in the National Football League after throwing for 3,200 yards and rushing for 1,379 more.


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