Hawkeyes seeking explosive RBs, WRs
IOWA CITY – For once, Iowa appears to be deep enough at both running back and wide receiver heading into next season.
What the Hawkeyes would really like to see is a few of those guys blossom into big-time playmakers.
Iowa’s abundance of backs could be the envy of the new Big Ten West in 2014, and the Hawkeyes also are deep and experienced at wide receiver.
But Iowa also averaged 4.2 yards per rush and just 6.8 yards per pass last season – both below the national average – en route to a rather pedestrian 26.3 points a game.
That’s why one of the main tasks for Iowa running backs/special teams coach Chris White and wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy this spring has been to identify explosive but possibly inexperienced players and see how close they are to helping Iowa next season.
“I think the thing that sticks out to me with my players in particular, the running backs and the specialists, is that there’s great competition,” White said. “We have depth … we have experience at the running back position right now. And we have some young guys who are trying to make a move and earn their niche.”
The Hawkeyes have three veteran backs with differing skill sets in Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock, and a host of promising underclassmen led by sophomore LeShun Daniels.
Iowa knows what it has in Weisman, a big, physical player who can excel as a lead back in its system provided he can stay healthy. But that’s been an issue because Weisman’s bruising running style makes it tough for him to stay on the field.
The 190-pound Canzeri worked his way up into a change-of-pace role last season, and White believes he’s the most instinctive back the Hawkeyes have.
White said Wednesday that while the versatile Bullock won’t move to wide receiver as many once thought, the Hawkeyes will continue to try to get Bullock more involved in the passing game out of the backfield.
Perhaps the most intriguing back on Iowa’s roster is Daniels.
The 230-pound Daniels had just 36 carries as a freshman last season. But Daniels has the size and quickness of a prototypical Iowa back and appears to be poised to push for a much bigger role in 2014.
“He’s a special kid,” White said. “He’s really worked on trying to be more flexible in the upper body and lower body. I think it’s really helped him out, and you can see it on the field. He’s explosive, he’s faster, and he’s making better cuts.”
White also singled out redshirt freshmen Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker as backs that have a chance to help alleviate Iowa’s lack of explosiveness.
“They’re different types of backs that I don’t think we’ve had here in a while. They have explosive speed, quickness, make-you-miss ability. We feel they have the ability to take a play beyond its design,” White said.
For all of Iowa’s depth at wide receiver, incoming senior Kevonte Martin-Manley led the team with just 40 catches for 388 yards last season.
There certainly appears to be a chance for a rising young receiver like redshirt freshman Derrick Willies to make his way into the rotation.
The Hawkeyes wouldn’t mind seeing Damond Powell develop into a starter either.
Powell had 291 yards on just 12 receptions after joining the program in August as a junior college transfer, but his effectiveness waned in Big Ten play.
Powell is by far Iowa’s most explosive receiver though, and Kennedy is hopeful that the chance to go through spring practice will help Powell round out his game.
“What I am trying to do with Damond is trying to get him to be a complete player rather than just a guy that goes deep,” Kennedy said.