Position Battle: Tailbacks
by Patrick Webb
The Tailback at Iowa is usually the only ball carrier. There are obviously exceptions such as Brad Banks in 2002 and the great injury plague of 2004, but generally the Tailback is going to “carry the mail.” The characteristics the coaching staff seems to favor in a ball carrier are patience and setting up blocks, choosing the correct running lane, and ball security. Of course there is much more than running the ball to gain playing time in Iowa’s offense. Pass protection is a key ability- understanding it and performing it well is a quick way to early playing time. Blitz pick-up will be especially important with a relatively inexperienced offensive line this season. Finally the screen game and being an outlet in the passing game are nice abilities to have but not absolutely essential (see Greene, Shonn). In 2008 Iowa’s TBs were rarely used in the passing game, but last season Robinson and Wegher combined for 23 catches and often motioned into the slot. I would look for that number to increase.
The candidates: I am going to put these guys in the order I expect them to end up with regarding carries. The exception will be Paki O’Meara, who will be listed last. He may get more carries then the freshman but I am listing him last because I think the staff would prefer to Red-shirt the freshman if it is possible, in order to stagger the classes a little bit.
Jewel Hampton R. So. 5’9 210 * 2008 91att. 463yds 7td 5.1ypa. 23KR 23.3avg.
Hampton had set the standard for true freshman backs backing up Shonn Greene in ’08 before the Duo of Robinson and Wegher last season. A slasher who improved steadily over the course of the ’08 season really showed some patience, suprising physicality, and a nice 2nd gear in the open field. A knee injury ended his season in preseason camp last year. He looked very good in 7 on 7 drills in the spring event. He reportedly participated in most of the spring practices and should be 100% healthy for the fall camp. Could be the most well rounded back on the roster. I expect him to be the lead back on the team this season.
Adam Robinson R. So 5’9 205 2009 181att 834yds 5td 4.6ypa 10rec 80yds 0td 2KR 19avg
Robinson was the more steady of the two freshman pressed into action last season. Seemed to be more willing to run for the tough inside yards. Made better decisions when choosing his running lanes, runs very low to the ground, able to break arm tackles. Didn’t run away from anyone and didn’t threaten the edge often which was sort of a surprise to me because he was known as a speed guy. (I wonder if both he and Wegher were so worried about holding onto the ball if they sacrificed speed for ball security). Pretty steady catching the ball, very good pass blocker and very willing to hit someone. Very comfortable catching the ball away from his frame.
Brandon Wegher So 5’11 206 162att 641yds 8td 13rec 112yds 0td 9KR 23.8avg
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The more flashy of the duo really settled in at the end of the season. He didn’t produce as many big plays as expected but was much more effective in the red zone than I expected. Fearless and not afraid of contact, very willing pass blocker, very good receiver, excellent route runner, great change of direction, can set guys up with or without the ball. Speedy and agile. You could sometimes see him thinking with the ball in his hands. Early in the season tried to press everything outside, but his vision and patience improved as the season progressed. Showed a lot of toughness playing through severe rib injury. Should have the inside track as primary Kick Returner and could be in the mix as a Punt Returner.
Brad Rogers R.Fr 5’10 215 No Statistics
Rogers was the feature back during the spring scrimmage with the top three nursing injuries and being held out of the competition for preventative measures. I would guess that he may be larger than his listed weight and he carries it well. He runs with a very nice body lean, and showed some nifty moves at or near the line of scrimmage. He showed a nice burst, but may lack a top gear right now. He is still learning on the job and could use a little patience running behind this scheme but overall shows a lot of potential and is a very nice change of pace compared to the rest of his running mates listed above. I thought he did an adequate job in pass protection and didn’t note him targeted with a pass in the scrimmage. I am really hoping he gets some time in this season so we get a better look at him.
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Marcus Coker T.Fr 6’0 230 No Statistics
Coker fits the Shonn Greene mold, a power back looking to batter through tackles, who also has a little scoot to his game. He averaged over 10 yards per carry his Junior and Senior campaigns and scored 23 TDs his senior year alone. He was also a captain of his team his last two years. I think it would be the preference of the coaching staff to Red- shirt him in order to put a two year gap between him and the top three tailbacks but if injuries strike and he is good enough it wouldn’t shock me to see him on the field at some point this season.
Paki O’Meara R.Sr 5’11 211 16att 35yds 0td 1rec 14yds
Paki may be a factor this season because of his experience, attitude and ability to catch passes and block. But so far he hasn’t looked very natural or explosive running the ball. He may have the vision to see the holes developing but he hasn’t shown the burst to get to the hole before it closes up. He is a very good special teams player and will be a factor on this teams’ success. I just don’t see it as a primary option at Tailback.
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De’Andre Johnson T.Fr 5’8 210 No Statistics
Johnson was a highly recruited player before a knee injury ruined his Senior season. Iowa stuck with him and gained his services. I don’t expect to see him this season as he could use the Red-shirt year to stagger, along with another year to strengthen his knee.
*Jason White R. So No Statistics
I expect White to play defensive back. He played running back during the spring scrimmage as much for lack of bodies at the position as for any grand plan to keep him there. He should have a bright future at Safety and should be in the mix in the battle to replace Brett Greenwood after 2011. I am making this assumption because he played both DB and TB during the spring, he is wearing #14 (also John Wienke’s number) and Iowa is legitimately deep at this position right now. He is a good enough football player that he can help us at Saftey. He will be a special teams contributor this season.