I asked Kirk Ferentz way back (July) in Chicago during Big Ten media days if he was sweating the running back position.
Quick primer on the Iowa RB position way back in July: No RB with a single carry for the UI in ’07.
Instead of shining the light on RB, Ferentz said the O-line would be the steering wheel for Iowa’s running game, which absolutely has to work for Iowa to return to a bowl game this year.
Two words on each of contenders:
Shonn Greene: Welcome back
Paki O’Meara: Walk on
Nate Guillory: Junior college
Jewel Hampton: True freshman
Jeff Brinson: Hurting freshman
Adam Robinson: Late recruit
Not only will Iowa’s RB have little or no college experience, position coach Lester Erb will have little or no experience coaching the position. He moves to RB coach from wide receivers.
Anybody sweating yet?
Here’s today’s story on Shonn Greene:
By Marc Morehouse
(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa running back Shonn Greene (23) smiles on the field during the team’s practice on Aug. 7.
IOWA CITY — For the last year of his life, Shonn Greene lived the way we do.
He worked at McGregor’s Furniture Company. He studied at Kirkwood Community College. He dreamed of a different life, one of a Division I college football player.
Greene got a belly-full of life on the “outside.” He’s glad to be back.
“Yeah, you appreciate it more. This stuff can be taken away from you just like that,” said the University of Iowa’s newest old running back. “It’s a privilege to be a Hawkeye. It’s a blessing.”
Don’t feel bad for Shonn Greene, a junior. He knows he has himself to blame for a year’s exile from the Iowa football program. Academics derailed him in the summer of 2007. His grade situation didn’t clear up until this summer.
He took in just two games last season. His best connection to the team was former running back Albert Young, a fellow South New Jersey resident. The two roomed together. The only time Young mentioned Greene, who turned down multiple interview requests during his hiatus, was after a game.
This is the now infamous TV quote. Asked what Greene was up to, Young said something about watching a lot of TV. This did not inspire confidence that Greene would earn the necessary grades to return.
“I did sit around a lot and watch TV,” Greene said with a laugh, “but that was after my books. My books always came first. I had nothing else to do but book and that, but (the Young comment) was funny though.”
The TV comment only fed into the other part of the “Shonn Greene off-season, off-campus training program” legend. The weight rumor sprouted in April. It started with Greene weighing in at 250-plus and ended with him a biscuit shy of 300. It was never that bad. But it wasn’t good, for a while, either.
Greene said he got as heavy as 249. Once he was able to practice at Iowa this summer, strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle put him through a regimen that gradually introduced him to the workload of a major-college running back. Greene said last Saturday he’s at 228 and hopes to play this fall at 225.
Greene didn’t get too hung up on the rumors. He never had to buy a pair of “fat” jeans.
“That’s just naturally going to happen when you take a year off,” Greene said. “It wasn’t like everybody was saying it was, that I weighed this much, it wasn’t like that. I just think people hear stuff for the first time and they take it overboard and it turns into a big story. I never thought my weight was a problem because I knew I was going to get it back down.”
Life on the outside included paying his own bills, thus the job at McGregor’s. He was pretty much banished from the football complex. His first hit during fall camp was his first since Iowa lost to Indiana in October 2006.
He is clear about his motivation.
“Football, basically,” he said. “I love football. That’s my life right there. Without football, I didn’t even know what else I was going to do. That’s all I wanted to do is play football, so basically football and then watching the guys last season on TV. I used to be at work and I’d see them on the screen playing, so that was good motivation, too.”
But he also knows the football comes along with school. Even though he turned 23 Thursday, Greene has two more seasons of eligibility.
“Most definitely,” Greene said when asked if he feels has something to prove academically. “That’s my main goal besides football, getting to the classroom, getting the job done.”
Academics is how Greene has become Iowa’s “new old” running back.
He was initially part of the 2004 recruiting class, signing with the Hawkeyes out of Winslow Township High School in Sicklerville, N.J. He failed to receive a test score and ended up at Milford (Conn.) Academy prep school for a year.
At Milford, Greene took weight training seriously and went from 190 pounds to 225. He also could’ve gone somewhere else. He was a recruitable athlete at Milford, where he gained 1,274 yards in his one season there.
But he stuck with Iowa.
“He weighed about 225 for me,” Milford Academy football coach Bill Chaplick said after the year he coached Greene. “Nobody caught him from behind, either.
“He’s a stud.”
Chaplick said Greene is a bigger, more physical version of Fred Russell, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher for the Hawkeyes who Chaplick also coached at Milford.
“He’ll break your bones,” Young said for a 2005 story about Iowa’s running back prospects.
“Shonn is going to be an unbelievable athlete,” former Iowa running back Marcus Schnoor said in the same story. “He’s huge and fast — maybe the fastest running back we have. He’s young and doesn’t know the system yet, but with development he’ll be a freak.”
This is what Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds thinks the Hawkeyes might have in Greene:
“Looking at the guys we play, I compare him to a P.J. Hill kind of guy,” said Edds, referencing the big Wisconsin running back who has logged 2,805 yards and 29 TDs in two seasons with the Badgers. “You look at his body frame and think he’s probably not going to have good feet, he’s probably not going to be able to run. But he’s surprisingly agile and quick on his feet.”
When he returned to Iowa City in 2005, Greene rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries in a victory over Ball State — his first game as a Hawkeye. In his 69 career carries at Iowa, Greene averages 5.5 yards a carry.
Then, last summer, another academic exile. This time, Iowa stuck with him.
Young stuck with him.
“He knew I was coming back, too, because he saw the desire in my eyes that I wanted to come back,” Greene said. “We had a little talk here and there.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz stuck with him.
“That’s one thing I’ve really appreciated,” Greene said. “He accepted me back here, hands down, no hesitation.”
And here he is. Again. This time, he’s the “new-old” guy.
“I don’t know about rookie, but yeah, kind of,” Greene said.
“Guys joke around about it. It’s a funny joke thing, but I’m just happy to be back.”