|At the beginning of August when Coach Ferentz spoke at Iowa’s media day, it seemed as if the competition for the starting running back spot on this year’s Hawkeye team was as up in the air as any position battle on offense. Now after more than two weeks of practice has been completed it appears the better battle may now be for the #3 spot. Let’s take a closer look at all the running backs on the roster starting of course with the number one guy:|
Shonn Greene (Jr.)
Obviously the running back on this year’s roster Hawkeye fans are most familiar with is junior Shonn Greene. Greene has been a Hawkeye since the 2005 season but missed last season due to academic reasons. He has recently come back from missing a little over a year and taken a firm grasp of the starting spot during fall practice. Greene is a strong, bruising runner who certainly isn’t afraid of a little contact and is a very tough back to bring to the ground. After the open practice that was held last Saturday, coach Ferentz was asked about Greene and whether he had separated himself from the field and taken over the starting running back spot. Ferentz made it clear in his answer that at this point, Shonn Greene is the #1 back. Now the answer to the question of who will be his back-up gets a little hazier, but that answer seems to be….
Paki O’Meara (Soph.)
Ferentz also made a point after the open practice to mention Paki O’Meara and that he was very happy with his progress. It certainly seems like O’Meara has earned the #2 spot behind Greene at least for the season opener. He is a former walk-on from nearby Cedar Rapids Washington High School. Ferentz and the coaching staff seem to be very impressed with O’Meara’s work ethic and the hustle he has been displaying on the practice field.
Nate Guillory (Jr.)
Nate Guillory joined the Hawkeyes this year after playing the last two seasons at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Guillory was one of most highly recruited Juco running backs in the 2008 class. JCGridiron.com had Guillory ranked as the 5th best Junior College running back in the nation after his 2007 season. He has surprising power for his size (5’10” 180lbs), but he also has the speed to run away from a secondary and may have the most “burst” out of all the running backs on Iowa’s roster.
Jayme Murphy (Soph.)
Jayme Murphy is a redshirt sophomore who had seen very limited time last season on the Hawkeye defense. Prior to spring practice this year, Murphy was moved from defensive back to running back. He came to Iowa in 2006 after playing running back and linebacker in high school for Dubuque Senior. Murphy will probably see his most time on special teams this season.
Jeff Brinson (Fr.), Adam Robinson (Fr.), Jewel Hampton (Fr.)
Iowa also brought in a group of three running backs in the 2008 recruiting class. Jeff Brinson from Saint Petersburg, Florida was the highest rated of these backs, ranked as a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com. Both Adam Robinson (Des Moines Lincoln) and Jewel Hampton (Indianapolis, IN) were ranked as 2-star recruits by Rivals. Expect Robinson to be redshirted this season, but Hampton and Brinson will most likely get some snaps during the first 2 games and may find themselves in the mix at running back.
The possibility of Hawkeye fans seeing a revolving door at the running back spot this year seems to be slim. Concerns that Shonn Greene may not be the same running back that showed so much promise as a young runner after more than a year away from the team seem to have been silenced by his rise to first-team during fall practice. What looked like could be a wide-open battle for the #1 spot now seems more solidified with a strong competition still for the #3 spot on the depth chart. Paki O’Meara has somewhat surprisingly taken hold of Greene’s back-up spot and Juco transfer Nate Guillory may be taking a bit longer to get acclimated with the Iowa offense than some had hoped.
The Hawkeye ground game does not have much work to do to improve from last year when Iowa ranked 92nd in the nation in rush yards per game. Early this season, yards could still be tough to come by as teams will most likely once again put 8 in the box on defense and force Iowa to prove they can beat them with the pass. But with healthy weapons on the outside and a more experienced offensive line, and if Shonn Greene is the same back that Hawk fans saw glimpses of during his freshman season, he may be ready for a breakout season.