2009 Projections: The Running Backs

It's time to begin the process of predicting the unit production for the 2009 Iowa football team. I went through this exercise last year and I hit a few singles, one homer, had a couple of foul tips and a few strikeouts. Let's take a look!

It's time to begin the process of predicting the unit production for the 2009 Iowa football team. I went through this exercise last year and I hit a few singles, one homer, had a couple of foul tips and a few strikeouts.

I felt that barring injury, Jake Christensen would take all of the meaningful snaps under center...that was a whiff. I said that Andy Brodell and DJK would combine for 80 receptions, roughly 1200 yards and nine touchdowns. They combined for exactly 80 receptions, roughly 1200 yards and seven touchdowns. I will put that in the homer category, if you don't mind.

I didn't see Shonn Greene's season coming, but said if he was 100 percent by the Maine game, he would be Iowa's featured back. I also felt Tony Moeaki would catch roughly 45 passes and Brandon Myers would have over 20. Myers was closer to 40 while Moeaki went through another injury plagued season.

While I will likely swing and miss a few times this year, I hope to make enough contact that come the summer of 2010, you might actually look forward to these predictions for more than just a good laugh.

Without further adieu, here are my rushing projections for the 2009 season.

Jewell Hampton had a great audition last year to be ‘the man' in 2009. He had 91 rushes for 463 yards and seven touchdowns. That averages out to about 5.1 yards per carry and 35 yards per game. When you had the Doak Walker winner playing in front of you, I would say that is making the most of the touches you received. Combined, Iowa had 30 rushing touchdowns on the season, partying like it was 1957. The Hawks combined to put up 2453 rushing yards, over 1800 of them coming from the legs of Shonn Greene.

One stat that was thrown out late in the year last year was that Greene had over 800 yards rushing after contact. I liked to point out that meant he had 1000 yards either before he was touched or was brought down at first contact. The offensive line was the second best unit of the Ferentz era. I think this year's line has a chance to be pretty good, too. Not as good as last year, but among the four best of the Ferentz era, which is still saying something. Upper third of the Big Ten; I'd take that right now sight unseen. When you have a pair of future NFL tackles, that's a good place to start.

So Iowa's running game is going to be there this year, but it may be more of a ‘by committee' approach, something Ferentz shared with a writer from ESPN earlier this week.

A friend of mine called me during the Michigan State game last year and said that Greene, while great, was a double's hitter getting home run holes. I loved the analogy, because I felt it was spot on. I think that Hampton is more of a home run hitter than Greene was. If he can only learn on the job patience the way that Greene did from the Maine game to the Northwestern game, that would be something to witness two years in a row. Because to excel in this offensive zone blocking scheme as a running back, it takes patience to wait for the hole to open up, and then decisiveness on a one-cut basis to hit it. Hampton showed last year that he can hit it; but will be be patient enough for the home run holes to open up?

Jeff Brinson was being talked about down in Iowa's team hotel at the Outback Bowl by quite a few people that had been witness to more than just a few of Iowa's bowl practices. He is also a home run hitter that has some power, which Hampton possesses as well. I don't want to sit here and say we are going to see Russell/Lewis like tandem performance this year, but I think these two are going to turn it a great year.

Paki O'Meara will get some mentions from Ferentz, but if Hampton and Brinson are healthy, they are going to see the lion's share of the carries. Iowa plans to use Brandon Wegher as a running back, and if he is what they think he is, he probably gets the #3 reps if he proves he can hold on to the football. But I am not sure how many of those reps are going to be there for the taking.

PROJECTIONS:

Player         Carries     Yards        Touchdowns

Hampton        250         1075                12
Brinson          144           590                 6

I gave Hampton 4.3 yards per carry and Brinson 4.1 yards per carry. The combined rushing attempts is 394; Greene and Hampton combined for 397 in 13 games in 2008. The combined rushing touchdown totals are 18; Greene had 20 in 13 games last year. The combined yardage is 1665. Lewis and Russell combined for 1596 in 2003. Russell, Lewis, Marcus Schnoor, Edgar Cervantes and AJ Johnson combined for 408 carries in 13 games; Lewis played just six games that year. Iowa's total rushing touchdowns that season was 20.

Russell had close to 280 carries that year. In 2005, Albert Young had 249 carries, but averaged 5.4 per carry for 1334 yards, a great year. Hampton's per game rushing yards above turns out to 89.5.

Iowa had the second best scoring offense in the Big Ten last year, averaging just over 30ppg. I think more scoring is going to come through the air this year and the team should average right around that number again in 2009.

Rick Stanzi will have some rushing touchdowns and some rushing yards, and at least two other backs will have some statistics as well, in addition to some chicken feed for the fullbacks.


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