According to The Daily Iowan, Iowa running back Mika’il McCall said he is leaving the Hawkeye football program. In addition, Pete Thamel of The New York Times is reporting that a man who would be blocking for McCall in 2012, junior left tackle Riley Reiff, is departing for the NFL one year early.
Neither loss is a surprise, although each departure will leave a lasting sting. Reiff, considered by some services to be the eighth-best overall prospect in the 2012 NFL draft, would gain little by returning to a likely mediocre Iowa team next season. His stature is as high as it will get. The 6 ft. 6, 300-pound behemoth has come a long way from his freshman season, when he entered the program as a defensive lineman from South Dakota and was better known for running naked through Pancheros in a well-publicized alcohol-related arrest than for his on-field play. Reiff’s dominate play at left tackle protecting Ricky Stanzi’s blindside, the most important position on the offensive line, took off when he was a redshirt freshman garnering his first start in a road win over a top-five ranked Penn State team. He had the position secured ever since, and developed into Iowa’s most reliable lineman. Iowa will now have to replace three starters on the offensive line in 2012, but no gap will be wider than the one left by Reiff.
As for McCall, speculation mounted after an indefinite suspension was smacked down by coach Kirk Ferentz before the Nebraska game, and it reach a fever pitch when McCall posted on his Facebook that he would be leaving Iowa. However, rampant talk quieted a bit when Ferentz told radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin before the Insight Bowl that he thought McCall would be back in 2012. Once the young back, who shined in limited duty this season before a broken ankle hindered him in addition to the suspension, started a Twitter account, a strict no-no in Ferentz land, and began tweeting about the “Iowa running back circus,” it became apparent that he would not be back. McCall had a bright future at Iowa, and reflects a troubling trend of attrition, both injury-induced and otherwise, at the running back position under Ferentz. McCall is the fifth back to leave Iowa in less than two years, joining Jeff Brinson (injuries), Jewel Hampton (injuries), Brandon Wegher (baby mama drama), and Adam Robinson (drugs+academic indigestion=Ferentz doghouse).
Ferentz received a commitment from four-star Erie, Pennsylvania, running back Marcus Garmon tonight, which should help mitigate the loss of McCall. Garmon chose Iowa over Miami and Arkansas, and he should be provide immediate depth in case another apocalypse at the running back position occurs. Reiff’s direct replacement is a bit more muddled — without a clear left tackle who has emerged in a back-up role the past two seasons, it will likely be an approach by committee to start next season.