Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Is Iowa Recruiting a New Kind of Running Back?

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Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Is Iowa Recruiting a New Kind of Running Back?
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In a recent article, I discounted the idea that Iowa's offense is predictable, noting that Wisconsin's offense is even more predictable and one-dimensional than the Hawks, yet they (the Badgers) are very successful.

However, poster Brad Miller countered with: "The difference between WI and Iowa is that they get big stocky lumbering RBs that can push the D back and are durable. Besides Shonn Greene, Iowa hasn't had anyone like that in the last...decade or more. Iowa gets more of the small scat backs that are more likely to be injured quicker and more often."

Since that time, we have been witness to one of the more impressive rushing performances by a Hawkeye back in recent memory.

It was all the more impressive due to the fact that the back in question was a true freshman.

Obviously, I am talking of Marcus Coker's 219-yard, two touchdown performance in the Insight Bowl.

In that game, one of his most impressive runs came on a counter play. On third-and-one, Coker cut through a hole and, after running untouched for five yards, ran through a Missouri defensive back.

He proceeded to run another 20 yards, until the Mizzou defense caught up with him. At that point, he carried as many as three defenders for another 10 yards.

Needless to say, Coker immediately drew comparisons to the aforementioned Shonn Greene, who had similar runs in his Doak Walker Award-winning 2008 season.

Greene weighed 215 pounds when he first committed to Iowa. When he graduated, he carried 235 pounds on his 5'11" frame. His current team—the NFL's Jets—lists him at 226.

Meanwhile, Marcus Coker is 6'0", and he came to the Hawks at 230 pounds, which is still his listed weight.

With former starter Adam Robinson's recent expulsion from the team, Coker is the decided front-runner to receive the most carries next season.

However, when one looks not only at Coker, but also at Iowa's other scholarship tailback and the Hawks' current verbal commits at the running back position; one is left to wonder if Kirk Ferentz wasn't thinking along the same lines as Brad Miller.

That is, maybe a Wisconsin-style bruiser would be a better fit for Iowa's "predictable" offense.

Right now, the Hawkeyes' only other scholarship tailback comes from the same class as Coker.

His name is DeAndre Johnson, out of Florida; though unlike Coker, Johnson redshirted.

Johnson is a squat 5'8", but is listed at a substantial 210 pounds.

That equates to a really low and ample center of gravity. For comparison's sake, think of Michigan's former back, Mike Hart. Hart was only 5'9", 210 lbs, but it was nearly impossible for one tackler to bring him down.

I'm not saying Johnson will ever be as good as Hart was, but physically, he has a similar build.

Beyond that, the Hawks have three verbal commits at running back: Torrey Campbell out of Naples, Florida; Mika'il McCall out of Dolton, Illinois; and Rodney Coe, out of Edwardsville, Illinois.

At 5'11", 175 lbs, Campbell is the smallest of the bunch, and if he does indeed stay in the backfield, he will be a scatback type of runner or a speedster.

However, Campbell is more than likely headed for a career as a defensive back.

Meanwhile, McCall is listed at 5'11", 190 pounds, though he runs much bigger than his size. In fact, Rivals lists him at 210 lbs. Whatever his true weight, he can expect to pack on another 15 to 20 pounds after a year or two with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

Depending on his actual weight now, his size could wind up being similar to Shonn Greene or former Iowa back and current Minnesota Viking Albert Young. It is difficult to say what his style is, but if his junior year highlight tapes are any indication, he is something of a bruiser.

Finally, there is the prize of the Iowa recruiting class: Rodney Coe. Coe chose the Hawks over offers from Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Oklahoma—basically, most of the more prestigious teams in FBS football.

Part of the issue was that most of the other teams wanted Coe strictly as a linebacker recruit, while Iowa left the door open for Coe to play running back.

He is listed at 6'3" and 240 lbs. With a center of gravity that high, he certainly looks much more the part of a linebacker or even defensive end than a running back. However, stranger things have happened.

Needless to say—as a running back—he is a bulldozer, pure and simple. His high school tapes also show him to have good speed, although his acceleration leaves something to be desired.

In effect, if you take Campbell out of the equation, that is four backs, all of whose playing weight should be at least 210 pounds.

Furthermore, if Coe indeed does stay in the backfield—a possibility about which I am admittedly skeptical—that is two backs over 230 pounds.

This begs the question: Is Iowa headed for more of a Wisconsin style of back and a Wisconsin style of running?

Only time will tell, but with Coker in the backfield for at least another two years—knock on wood—there should be a lot of bruising runs to fill up highlight tapes for a while.

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