Posted by: marcmwm | March 16, 2009

Four downs with the RBs

QUICK LOOK BACK: Shonn Greene came back from academic limbo and logged the best season for a running back in Iowa football history. The 5-11, 235-pounder set Iowa season records for
Iowa running back Jewel Hampton leaps over a Minnesota defender for a first down in Iowa's 55-0 victory last November.

Iowa running back Jewel Hampton leaps over a Minnesota defender for a first down in Iowa's 55-0 victory last November.

yards (1,850) and TDs (20). He won the Doak Walker Award (nation’s top running back), the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football (Big Ten MVP) and was Iowa’s first consensus all-American running back since Nile Kinnick (1939). Walking off the field after Iowa’s 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Greene announced that he will enter April’s NFL draft, putting sophomore Jewel Hampton (91 rushes for 463 yards and 7 TDs) and redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson in the crosshairs for RB in ’09.

FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: Yes, Hampton will be a true sophomore with only 91 carries and Brinson has yet to carry the ball, but Iowa is still miles ahead of where it was last season. Remember? Jevon Pugh was the leader in the clubhouse with just 40-something yards, but he left school before spring because of home sickness. That left WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos as Iowa’s leading returning rusher. Greene, at this point, wasn’t a sure thing to make it back to Iowa, at least publicly.

It’s easy to do the math on Hampton. He rushed 91 times last season, about a third of Greene’s carriers (307) and gained 463 yards. So, mathematically, Hampton is a potential 1,400-yard rusher. But hey, that’s on paper. He’s 5-9, 200. Durability will be a question he’ll have to answer. Give him credit for showing burst and vision last season. He also ran with abandon and didn’t fumble.

Brinson didn’t play during Iowa’s open scrimmage, so he hasn’t had a carry outside of an Iowa practice. He put up mind-boggling numbers (4,925 yards and 67 TDs) in high-level high school competition (Northeast High School, St. Petersburg, Fla.). He’s 5-11 and probably in the 220 range. Iowa coaches considered pulling off the redshirt last season, but Greene stay healthy and they didn’t have to.

Hampton, Brinson or one-two punch, Iowa will be young at RB again next season.

THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Will an incoming RB factor into this? Realistically, probably not. Possibly, sure.

Sioux City Heelan’s Brandon Wegher was unbelievable leading the Crusaders to the Class 3A state title last season, rushing for 3,238 yards and 54 TDs. Iowa coaches recruited him as a running back, not as a slot receiver or safety. His first stop at Iowa will be in the backfield. Also, Wegher said around signing day that Iowa coaches want to use him as a kick returner next fall.

Brad Rogers, of Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic, doesn’t have the resume. He’s battled the injury bug the last two seasons, with only 246 career attempts. Iowa coaches brought the 5-10, 225-pounder in to play running back, not fullback. Rogers is likely a redshirt, but so was Damian Sims in 2004. You never know.

Juniors Paki O’Meara and Jayme Murphy have been listed as running backs. They were standout special teams players last season. Murphy is coming back from concussion problems. Redshirt freshman Adam Robinson has moved to the secondary.

SECOND DOWN — STRENGTHS: Hard to say right now, but Hampton’s showing is a tangible that Iowa can, perhaps, bank on in ’09. He had Iowa’s best season for a true freshman RB since Tony Stewart (1987-90). That’s something. Here’s something else: Iowa’s offensive line graduated two fully matured fifth-year senior bodies into potential NFL draft picks. Finding capable replacements for C Rob Bruggeman and G Seth Olsen is as big of a deal as finding the go-to running back.

Iowa doesn’t ask a lot out of the fullback position, but junior Brett Morse and sophomore Wade Leppert filled it capably in ’09. There was that play at Michigan State, but that’s a bygone at this point. They block, catch a few passes and block. That’s their job.

FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: It’s Hampton ball. That is, of course, unless Brinson unseats him during fall camp. Yes, it’ll probably come down to a shared situation, but when Iowa’s running game has hummed during the Kirk Ferentz era, it’s been a one-man show (Betts, Russell, Young, Greene). Last year, Iowa dictated tempo and set a physical tone with Greene. That’s what Iowa wants. It’s what every team in football wants. Who delivers? It’ll be interesting. I like what I’ve seen from Hampton. I like what I’ve read about Brinson. That’s the difference right now.

The starter: Hampton

Next: Brinson/Hampton

Incoming: Wegher, Rogers

Surprise: Brinson wins Big Ten newcomer of the year.

Caption: Northeast High School's Jeff Brinson, left, shoves Southeast High School defender Giovani Francois out of the way during an 80-yard touchdown run in a 2007 game.

Caption: Northeast High School's Jeff Brinson, left, shoves Southeast High School defender Giovani Francois out of the way during an 80-yard touchdown run in a 2007 game.

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Responses

  1. “There was that play at Michigan State…”

    I wish I could forget that one.

    You must be hearing some amazing things about Brinson to think he may be newcomer of the year in the BigTen. That would mean the Hawks contend for the title. Which I think they will.

    Tough schedule though.

  2. […] Janet Moore posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippetHe’s battled the injury bug the last two seasons, with only 246 career attempts. Iowa coaches brought the 5-10, 225-pounder in to play running back, not fullback. Rogers is likely a redshirt, but so was Damian Sims in 2004. … […]

  3. I think they can. The road games put the ol’ “better team than last year but not as many wins” tag into play.

    Hey, I put the Brinson thing under surprise! That would surprise me. What’s more realistic, though, are numbers simlar to the ones that Hampton put up last season.

  4. I Brinson does what Jewel did last year and Jewel gets anywhere CLOSE to Shonn then we’ll be just fine.

    Quite frankly, the OL concerns me here more than the backfield talent.

  5. You nailed it with the loss of Olsen and Bruggeman being the bigger issue here. Hampton et al will be fine if they can refill those spots on the OL.

  6. And that’s the thing, who are the next Bruggeman and Olsen?

    Dan Doering might be a G. Center is the toughie and I’ll bet that one’s wide open. Spring practice will actually mean something at that position.

  7. Little KF? What about Dace? He surely isn’t going back to LT now. Just throwing names out right now and feel free to add on.

    I can’t see Eubanks as he didn’t get it done his freshamn year, too small IMO.

  8. In my mind (feeble), it’s James Ferentz, Raf Eubanks and Josh Koeppel at center.

    Guard is probably Doering and Andy Kuempel.

    If Dace plays (man, what a great story that would be), I see him mixing in on the inside with a clear shot at a tackle spot in ’10, which would be his sixth year if he would be granted that.

    LT — Bulaga
    LG — Vandervelde
    C — JF, RE or JK
    RG — Doering/Kuemple
    RT — Calloway

    Or maybe Riley Reiff breaks through the same way Bulaga did. A year at guard before moving out to tackle.

  9. Eubanks had a really good freshman year and made a couple freshman All-American teams, EP. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. He’s got a really good shot at taking back the job again this year, I think.

    Also, Marc, I disagree that all of Iowa’s good rushing teams have been a one man show. In 2002, Jermelle Lewis also had a really good year in relief of Russell with over 700 yards and some big games. Sharing carries between Hampton and Brinson (with maybe a little Wegher mixed in here and there) makes a lot of sense.

    On Dace, do you think he’d get that extra year of eligibility? My sense is that he’s probably done anyway, but it’d sure be nice to at least have him in the mix after Calloway graduates.

  10. I want to know how Smithwick’s and Guinness are doing. They’re doing well by me right now!

  11. Love the Guinness Extra Stout, Marc!!

    Yes, every downtown in Iowa is crazy today.

  12. I’ve had a Smithwick’s or two this afternoon to celebrate. Definitely my St. Patrick’s beer of choice, I’ve never been a big fan of Guinness.

  13. If Eubanks was so good then why did RB take that role away and never look back?

    What I remember watching was someone, a freshman, getting schooled and I thought I read he blew some line calls and wasn’t real popular with teammates?

    Nothing personal against the kid, I am just not sold on him and see him starting as a step backwards for the OL.

  14. Adam, I also dig Smithwick’s. Guinness Draught, I don’t like.

    E, this is his last chance. He does it or doesn’t.

  15. Bruggeman was really good, losing his job to him doesn’t mean Eubanks was terrible or something. I think there’s some legitimate concerns about Eubank’s ability to make line calls in the past (which is a big part of the reason I think Bruggeman passed him on the depth chart. Ferentz sounded like he wanted to adopt the kid at times last year, so I’m assuming Rob has a high football IQ), but he was also trying to start as a true freshman and sophomore. That’s not easy. I would hope that he’s matured and learned some since then. The size thing doesn’t really concern me that much. He’s got good technique, and that’s a lot more important in Iowa’s scheme than pure strength, especially for a center.

  16. RE has never impressed me. I noticed him missing blocks numerous times. When he made the all B10 team (honorable mention?) I was scratching my head!

  17. Center is a position to watch this spring. WR and RB, too.

    And, yes, coaches loved RB from day 1. I remember talking to Reese Morgan about him as a freshman. I thought it was just something all coaches would say. I was wrong.

  18. I like Adam’s take on RB and RE. Thanks. Football starts when the Center grabs the ball and success comes from what happens on that line.

  19. Ferentz constantly jokes about the anonymity of the “left guard.”

    When Iowa football is going right, everyone knows who the left guard is.

  20. When Iowa football is going wrong everyone knows who the left guard is as well.

    Fortunately, I think those days are behind us for awhile.

  21. […] Four downs with the running backs. […]

  22. […] Adam Robinson […]


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