Iowa hoping Canzeri, Daniels emerge as running backs
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa's reputation as a running team has been hampered by the fact that the Hawkeyes haven't run the ball particularly well in recent years.
Iowa is hoping to get back to its roots in 2015 behind a senior holdover and a trio of intriguing but inexperienced backs.
Veteran Jordan Canzeri and seldom-used junior LeShun Daniels Jr. are atop the most recent depth chart for Iowa, which will mark the midway point of spring practice with a workout in West Des Moines on Saturday.
''I'd love to sit here and have (former Wisconsin star) Melvin Gordon run it 50 times a game for us. We don't have that right now. We have very talented running backs here,'' Iowa running backs/special teams coach Chris White said.
Having the bruising Daniels and the speedy Canzeri split carries would appear to be ideal for the Hawkeyes.
But staying healthy has been an issue for both players.
Canzeri ranked second on the team in yards rushing in 2013 and 2014 behind converted fullback Mark Weisman, who wore down by November as the constant pounding caught up to him.
Canzeri, at just 5-foot-9 and 192 pounds, has averaged 5.3 yards per carry while battling injuries. But he had 120 yards in a 45-28 bowl game loss to Tennessee in January.
''He really hasn't had a full year where he's been healthy, and last year was certainly the case. But I think we got a glimpse of him in the bowl game,'' White said.
Daniels, who is 6-foot and 225 pounds after dropping some weight so far this offseason, runs with a straight-ahead style that seems well suited to Iowa's offensive philosophy.
The Hawkeyes could use a breakout season out of Daniels in 2015.
Daniels had just 36 carries as a freshman stuck behind three backs in 2013. He played in just five games last season because of injuries.
Still, Daniels will have the opportunity to grab many of the carries that used to go to Weisman.
''We call LeShun `Big Boy.' But he should be called `Little Big Boy' now,'' White said. ''We wanted to cut his body bulk. He doesn't look nearly as bulky, and you see it on the practice field. His movement and his pad level are markedly better.''
If injuries to Canzeri and Daniels continue to be an issue, the Hawkeyes would likely lean on two sophomores who've shown moments of promise.
Derrick Mitchell Jr., also a sophomore next season, was so impressive emulating Gordon as a scout team player ahead of Iowa's loss to the Badgers that he's been converted from wide receiver to running back. White said Mitchell is already pushing for playing time after just six spring practices.
Jonathan Parker, whose speed forced Iowa to find ways to get him playing time on sweeps and returns as a freshman, has taken Mitchell's place with the wide receivers.
''I'm really excited about (Parker) ... he accepted his role, just like Derrick Mitchell. Derrick Mitchell, I hated to lose him,'' Iowa wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said. But ''he did such a good job last year performing on the scout team that people said this guy might be a running back.''
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