Eubanks Rising to Occasion in Second Chance

Rafael Eubanks seems to be making up for a disappointing junior season by putting his best foot forward in his final campaign.

Rick Stanzi's huddle presence has been talked about quite a bit this season as Iowa does its best version of the cardiac kids.

Other players also are in command, however. Center Rafael Eubanks sits at the top of the list.

"Everybody looks up to him," Left Tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "I don't think he's (misidentified) one call this year. He's done a great job. You can count on him every time. A loud stadium and he's making the right IDs every time. He lets everyone know."

Eubanks lost his starting gig to Rob Bruggeman last season. He came back this season and won the No. 1 center job ahead of Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz.

"For me, it was definitely a confidence thing," the 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior said. "Just going in and knowing it was my last year and just going all out and knowing that I've done it before and that I can do it is a big thing I think."

Eubanks started as a redshirt freshman and sophomore before falling behind Bruggeman a year ago.

"Part of the problem last year is he got nudged out by a guy that has played as good of center as we have had in the last decade," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "That was the circumstance there; the other thing, when you are winning, your older players have to play their best and Rafael is a good example of that. He is playing his best ball right now. That is what it takes for us to have a chance to have a successful group."

Eubanks was in the middle of Iowa's amazing touchdown drive on Saturday that finished with a last-second touchdown pass from Stanzi to Marvin McNutt. The Hawkeyes escaped Michigan State with a 15-13 victory.

"It's just focusing on the little details," Eubanks said of his more consistent play this season. "That's the biggest thing. And just playing hard every play and just taking advantage of the opportunity that I had this year. It's my senior year and I just want to play the best I can."

Eubanks came out of the highly-regarded Cretin-Derham Hall program in St. Paul. He earned four stars on a five-star scale.

A lot was expected of Eubanks because of the recruiting hype. He also was part of the 2005 class that ended up being the most highly-ranked group in the Ferentz Era.

"Being behind (Bruggeman) last year, he still kept his head up," Bulaga said. "He played a lot of guard last year. He was able to give a lot of input to the offense. This offseason, he kind of regained that, "Hey, I'm back. I'm playing center this year." He's done a great job."

Eubanks feels like he learned a lot from Bruggeman last season.

"Just seeing what he did as a player, how he excelled and setting it as my goal to play up to that level through the course of the season," Eubanks said.

On Tuesday, Eubanks was asked how his offensive line unit would respond to the loss of his roommate, Dace Richardson, who suffered a regular-season-ending injury at Michigan State.

"We practice that all week, the ones, the twos, the threes," Eubanks said. "Our calls are universal. It doesn't matter who is in there."

Eubanks wasn't dismissing the injury to his friend. He was showing leadership in that he believes the group will get it done no matter who starts.

Next up is Indiana on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.

"We go in preparing for what we see on film, but we expect to see something different, too," Eubanks said. "Indiana is probably going to try to stop our run. They know we like to run the ball. How they're going to try to do that? We don't know."

And while Eubanks has confidence in his teammates, the coach believes in him.

"He had some medical issues last year, but he has put everything aside and is playing every snap like it's his last one," Ferentz said. "It has been good."


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