Iowa and Oklahoma are both looking for a running back as they prepare for their December 30th matchup in the Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes will be without sophomore Marcus Coker, who finished second in the Big Ten in rushing, after he was suspended this week and backup Mikh’ail McCall will remain suspended and not make the trip.
The options for coach Kirk Ferentz are De’Andre Johnson, Jordan Canzeri, Brad Rogers, Damon Bullock and Jason White. The five of them combined to rush for 171 yards this season. Ferentz says they will “do it by committee” as all of the backs will have a hand in what they do.
Whoever plays against the Sooners must be able to pick up the blitz. “They’re a high percentage pressure team, basically on all downs and distances, so there’s no question about that, we’ll have to do a good job there,” Ferentz says.
Ferentz says the situation reminds him of 2004 when the Hawks went into the Capitol One Bowl against LSU with redshirt Sam Brownleee at running back. “It’s all about finding a way to win, we did that in ’04, on numerous occasions,” he says. They play defending national champion and beat them in the bowl game that year after losing several runningbacks.
It is a similar situation for the Sooners who have seen three running backs leave the program since August and leading rusher Dominique Whaley suffered a broken ankle mid-way through the season. Coach Bob Stoops admits it’s a frustrating situation. “We’ll find other guys to do it,” Stoops says
While the number of defections have been unusually high this season Stoops says it is not unusual to have some attrition at running back. “Around the country it’s probably not the unusual, it’s one position and kind of like quarterback…unfortunately too many guys don’t see the big picture in how many there are, how many snaps in a year and what their opportunities can be, you know, but what are you gonna do?”
Stoops does not feel all the defections are a warning sign for the program. “Some have multiple issues that you don’t know about within the program, whether it be class attendance, whether it be workout absences, whether it be drug testing policies, everything that they have to handle, there’s a lot to it,” Stoops says. He says there are a lot of standards to meet and some guys may have to find a place where they don’t have to meet such standards.
The Sooners are also thin at receiver where two of their top three are out with injuries, including All-American Ryan Broyles. Stoops says they will still hopefully get as many snaps as they are used to so they will have to have a lot of guys ready to play.
Iowa is 7-5 while Oklahoma is 9-3.