A brand new season is almost upon us as we look forward to the 2015 version of Iowa Hawkeyes football. For the next several days, Hawkeye Insider will be giving a preview of what to watch for, what to expect, and a prediction on performance from each position group on the team.
Today, we cast our eyes on the running backs.
The culmination of spring football was an enjoyable one for junior LeShun Daniels, as he finished the portion of the football calendar atop the depth chart at running back. Despite having that label to his name, he may share carries with a few other teammates as well. It's the position that may have the best depth, along with the secondary, and the competition has been heated. However, it's still a tight-knit group.
"(The competition) is good," Daniels said. "It's real good. We're all good friends in the running back room. We all want to be the guy. We all come to practice every single day bringing it whether it be running the ball, blocking, or pass-catching."
A few people close to the program I have spoken to expect a huge year from Daniels, stating that many will be surprised by his performance this year. It will be his time to shine, after suffering injuries in his first couple seasons.
THE PRIMARY BACKUPS
Yes, primary backups, as in plural. I think once you get past Daniels, there will be three other running backs that see playing time as well. Obviously Jordan Canzeri is someone that will see the field, being the unquestioned leader of the group as a senior. Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell have also garnered significant reps throughout fall camp, and have shown glimpses of promise. If I had to guess, we'll see more of Canzeri and Mitchell than Wadley, but I think he'll still have an opportunity to tote the rock on occasion.
The Iowa head coach has mentioned Canzeri in the same breath with LeShun Daniels often, so he could be the first one up after the listed starter on the depth chart.
"I think LeShun and Jordan have both run well," Kirk Ferentz shared to the media gathered in attendance following Kids' Day in Kinnick Stadium. "They run tough in practice. They've done a good job."
Though Ferentz has singled out Canzeri and Daniels often, he had some praise for Derrick Mitchell recently as well.
"Derrick Mitchell is making up ground, gaining ground right now," Ferentz stated. "He's working on getting the pads going that way, north and south a little bit more. That's how you learn. He's working hard and gaining ground."
THE LAST GROUP
With C.J. Hilliard transferring to Ohio, the last group is only comprised of redshirt freshman Marcel Joly and true freshman Eric Graham. Both have flashed potential at times in camp, but neither is expected to collect any significant playing time. In fact, I would be surprised not to see Graham redshirt. If asked who I thought had a chance to make progress up the depth chart for the future, it would be Graham. He seems to be more natural, has some wiggle, vision, and explosion to his game. Joly may have the better overall speed, but lacks a bit in the vision department.
I think this is a position that will just "look" better. It will be a position held by a running back with some shiftiness, with some quickness, with some speed, and the ability to put his foot in the ground, make one cut, and go. That's been missing from Iowa the past couple of years. They have that this year in Daniels. Canzeri gives them the experience and can get tough yards, and Mitchell has been described as a third down back by many inside the program and is a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield.