IOWA CITY - Iowa sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri looked like his old self after missing all of last season because of a knee injury, making swift cuts and displaying significant acceleration Saturday in the spring game at Kinnick Stadium.
His performance was well received, both by fans and coaches who watched him. Some of his family even traveled all the way from his hometown of Troy, N.Y., to watch him scrimmage.
"Since I'm from New York, I don't really get to see my family that often," Canzeri said. "When they come out here, I hope I can do a good enough job and do well for them when I see them. They make me want to play even better."
Canzeri handled the ball nearly 20 times, often bouncing to the outside for solid gains. On his third touch, he appeared stuffed on the right hash mark before bouncing back around to the left. Canzeri soared downfield for a 22-yard gain.
His showing was highlighted by a touchdown catch-and-run from quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Beathard lined up a dump-off pass to Canzeri who shot downfield in open space. A block from wideout Jacob Hillyer downfield sealed the 46-yard score for Canzeri that brought some of the crowd to their feet.
Iowa missed Canzeri's speed last season, and his return has added a whole new dimension to an offense that was in desperate need of a big-time playmaker.
A healthy Canzeri could contend for that role. In his first start, he had 86 total yards and his first career touchdown in a 31-14 loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl.
"He has that speed and agility," tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. "He was spinning out of a lot of tackles today, running past guys. He's a very shifty running back, whereas Mark (Weisman) runs over guys.
"To have a couple of running backs that have different styles, I think it's going to help us out."
Perhaps the biggest message sent by Canzeri's performance Saturday was that there could now be a competition at running back. Both Damon Bullock and Weisman were seen by many as the front-runners for the top spot in Iowa's backfield.
"Jordan probably could've played at the end of last year, but I'm not sure it would've been prudent," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But he's really done a nice job this spring, and we saw some good things (Saturday), too. We feel better about that."