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
Incoming: Wegher, Rogers
Surprise: Brinson wins Big Ten newcomer of the year.