Iowa Post-Spring Analysis: Running Backs

Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels give the Iowa Hawkeyes a lot of firepower in the backfield.

DEPTH CHART

LeShun Daniels is the starter followed by Akrum Wadley but to me they are 1A and 1B. It will be the hot hand strategy this year I believe. If one of them gets going in a deep groove, I think it becomes their game while getting spelled by the other here and there to remain fresh. It will depend on the health of both, because neither has been able to stay at 100 percent for an extended period of time, but it's not out of the question that they both could run for over 1,000 yards. They are that skilled and talented and neither has a leg up on the other. Iowa practically has two starters here. 

The third guy is Derrick Mitchell even though he sat out all of Spring with a shoulder injury. I don't think that takes his third-down back role away but he probably missed out on a chance to prove that he could take on increased snaps and show that he could produce with more carries. We know he can be a third-down back but he hasn't had chance to show anything else. Unfortunately for him this Spring, he still wasn't able to. 

Eric Graham and Marcel Joly are behind those three. One of them should garner the snaps when the game is in garbage time but there's yet to be any clear separation between the two. A true freshman, Toren Young or Toks Akinribade, likely gets limited snaps or at least special teams time so they don't graduate same year. 

EVALUATION

This is the fun group on offense. This is where the firepower is, along with C.J. Beathard. The backfield is the fun zone. 

The offense needs explosive plays like they did a year ago. They lose a chunk without Tevaun Smith and Jordan Canzeri. But I think LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley can more than make up for those missing pieces. 

Everyone knows how dynamic and explosive Wadley can be, but do you remember LeShun Daniels at 100 percent against Minnesota? Don't sleep on him because he's a bonafide ball-carrier that is more than just a power back. He has the burst to get through a hole and make a house call as well. I don't think Mitchell is more than a third-down back, at least at this time. But he's something that is important to have so he does bring value to the position group, certainly. His returned good health will be a welcome sign for the staff in Iowa City. 

For Wadley, I'm pretty sure he's past it and technique and added strength helped it along, but continuing to showcase ball security is immensely important. He tacked on the pounds for Spring football, and now I think he'll want to tack on even more before Fall camp arrives. He's shy of 200 pounds, still.

ANALYSIS

The strong point of the team, I have no concerns or worry about how Iowa will produce out of the backfield. If Wadley or Daniels get banged up, which will likely happen at some point, the other will step in and take over the reins with little to no drop off in production. They're also going to be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, no question. 

If they are both out, what happens? It happened last year when they had to go to number three on the depth chart. His name was Akrum Wadley and he ran for over 200 yards in Evanston, Illinois to beat Northwestern handily. Would that be Derrick Mitchell this year? I'm not so sure. I think it might be Eric Graham. He showed some glimpses during the Spring of having an element of Akrum Wadley to his game in terms of burst and shiftiness. He just may not be as ready mentally as Wadley was last season. He's had one less year in the program. 

PREDICTION

My bold prediction here is what I hinted at in the first paragraph. I think Wadley and Daniels both run for over 1,000 yards this season. Wadley has 200-yard game in his potential. LeShun Daniels does too and I think he stays just healthy enough to eclipse the century mark. This team ran for well over 2,000 last year between Wadley, Daniels, and Canzeri. I think Daniels and Wadley pick up what's lost and do it between themselves. 


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories