With the news of Iowa Hawkeyes freshman running back Barkley Hill‘s season ending injury, fans are once again left scratching their heads. How can this be? How can this many running backs not stay on the field at Iowa?
Normally I wouldn’t be that concerned, but the reality is that the Hawkeyes are down to 2 scholarship running backs, and 1 fullback that will get carries this season. 3 players, that’s it.
Besides the obvious lack of depth this creates, what other impact will this have on the offense?
Who gets the Bulk of Carries?
Damon Bullock will be the starting running to kick off the season. He’s the only running back with any experience, he’s been there the longest, so it’s his job to start the season. As far as what to expect from Bullock, no one is really sure.
If you think about the number of players that would of been ranked ahead of him on the depth chart, if they’d stayed at Iowa, Bullock would not even be touching the field this year. It doesn’t mean he’s not good, it’s just the truth. Iowa doesn’t recruit bums, so I’m sure he will be able to gain positive yardage against the non-conference opponents, and potentially in B1G play.
Greg Garmon is true freshman from Pennsylvania, who’s going to get a shot at just 18 years of age. Now Garmon is not your typical running back in terms look, he’s 6’2″, about 200 lbs, and was actually recruited to play defensive back by other schools. He chose Iowa because of the opportunity to play running back.
Garmon is a 4 star recruit that will be solid in the run game, but his pass blocking is an area for improvement. However, he is a potential breakout star for the offense, and I won’t be surprised if he’s starting by the end of the year.
Brad Rogers (FB) should get his fair share of playing time as well with the expected uptick in passes from the Hawkeyes. With his size (5’10”, 230 lbs) and skill set, Rogers will be an ideal candidate to block for James Vandenberg in the many one back sets Iowa figures to run.
It’s not like Rogers can’t run the ball too. He can be the thunder to the lightning provided by Bullock and Garmon. There’s nothing wrong with a straight forward, run right at you fullback, that can gain a couple yards when you need it. I like having Rogers in the mix, as it provides a change of pace, and improves the pass blocking in the backfield.
Overall Impact on Offense
I, like many, have wanted a change to Iowa’s offense for awhile now. With new coordinator Greg Davis calling the plays, and the extreme lack of depth at running back, it looks like fans will get their wish. Barkley Hill’s injury should only further that, not only for the fact that Iowa doesn’t have many guys to hand the ball to, but because they have have to play to their strength.
They have a senior quarterback who should be an NFL draft pick in Vandenberg, two very solid wide outs with Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, and another future NFL tight end in C.J. Fiedorowicz. These players are the best Iowa has on offense, and they must use them as much as possible.
Yes of course Iowa must run the ball to take pressure of the passing game, but as legendary coach Hayden Fry said, “scratch where it itches.”
Iowa should pass to set up the run, not the other way around, and the Hill injury should only further that strategy. I’m still confident that the remaining running backs will make the most of their carries, and that the Iowa running game will be fine. While this is certainly not a blessing in disguise situation, I like the opportunities and possibilities it presents to the offense.