It's about that time. For the next month week, BHGP will be previewing this year's Iowa Hawkeyes, position-by-position. Naturally, as the earth revolves around the sun, things will change. Therefore, we're starting with the position we are most certain of, and ending with running back offensive line the position of which we are least certain. To date:
Today: Running Back
It's 11:00 CDT, and the polls have closed. BHGP News has made a projection and is ready to declare a winner in the Iowa tailback contest. It's not third-party candidate Paki O'Meara, either.
(I need to stop watching election coverage.)
The Almost-Certain Starter
Shonn Greene (5'11", 230, Jr.) - In listening to the coaching staff over the past two weeks, one thing is apparent: Shonn Greene is your starting halfback. Greene, another product of Iowa's connections to southern New Jersey, is the only tailback on the roster who has actually carried the ball in a Big Ten game.
Greene's story is now well-known: Didn't have the test scores in high school, spent a year in prep school, bulked up from 190 to 225 and kept his blazing speed, played sparingly but impressively as a freshman, missed his grades, spent a year at Kirkwood, roomed with Al Young, loved his TV, and returns this year as a 23 year-old junior.
My memory of Greene plowing over defenders against Ball State in 2006 has me feeling comfortable. Marc Morehouse's recent Gazette story on Greene has me feeling giddy:
"He weighed about 225 for me," Milford Academy football coach Bill Chaplick said after the year he coached Greene. "Nobody caught him from behind, either. He’s a stud."
Chaplick said Greene is a bigger, more physical version of Fred Russell, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher for the Hawkeyes who Chaplick also coached at Milford. "He’ll break your bones," [Albert] Young said for a 2005 story about Iowa’s running back prospects. [Ed. note -- EEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!]
"Shonn is going to be an unbelievable athlete," former Iowa running back Marcus Schnoor said in the same story. "He’s huge and fast — maybe the fastest running back we have. He’s young and doesn’t know the system yet, but with development he’ll be a freak."
This is what Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds thinks the Hawkeyes might have in Greene: "Looking at the guys we play, I compare him to a P.J. Hill kind of guy," said Edds, referencing the big Wisconsin running back who has logged 2,805 yards and 29 TDs in two seasons with the Badgers. "You look at his body frame and think he’s probably not going to have good feet, he’s probably not going to be able to run. But he’s surprisingly agile and quick on his feet."
Not only that, but judging from what Greene says in that article, I don't think we have to worry about a relapse into grade-induced oblivion. Wipe the sweat from your brow, fellow Iowa fan; I'd say we have our guy
The Other Possibilities
Paki O'Meara (5'11", 205, Soph.) - This spring, Jevon Pugh left the program. Shonn Greene had not yet returned. Nate Guillory was on campus, but had barely begun praticing with the team and learning the offensive system. Jeff Brinson and Jewel Hampton hadn't arrived. Jayme Murphy was still considered a safety (and still named "Jayme"). Brian Mungongo had temporarily left to host Brian Mungongo's Safari Planet.
Brian Mungongo, at his summer job
That left Paki O'Meara, a walk-on from Cedar Rapids with one of the strangest beards I've ever seen, as the starting tailback in the spring game. We were mildly concerned. So, apparently, was the coaching staff; they spent the offseason searching the countryside for anyone who could break a tackle, chop down a blitzing linebacker, and not commit a fourth-degree felony. They found a couple options, and the halfbackpocalypse was averted.
That being said, you're going to see Paki on the field this year. The coaches (and, for that matter, the BTN guys at practice) have praised his knowledge of the system and ability to pass protect. Those are qualities Ferentz and O'Keefe have stressed in their halfbacks since they took over (and they are the qualities cited in keeping Nate Guillory and the freshmen on the bench). He won't be the #1, but Paki will likely be the #1A.
Nate Guillory (5'10" (not exactly), 185 (not close), Jr.) - You might remember Nate Guillory from such posts as "Where's Jevon Pugh?" and "No, seriousy, where the fuck is Jevon Pugh?" We're still not sure what the answer to those questions might be, but Nate Guillory is here now. Guillory was one of the finest JUCO players in the country last year, rushing for 2600 yards and 28 touchdowns in two seasons at Coffeyville (KS) Community College. He received a 3-star rating from both Rivals and Scout, and offers from North Carolina (which he accepted, then declined) and Kansas State (which he accepted, then declined) before settling on the halfback-less Iowa Hawkeyes. Phil Steele lists him as preseason 4th team All-BXI, based solely on the idea that he would be starting and better than three other backs.
Spring was not good to Guillory, though. What was billed as size of "Fred Russell" turned out to be closer to "kickboxing dwarf." With no size and no experience, Guillory struggled. Ferentz described him as looking "lost" and playing like "a new player." Word is that fall practice has been far kinder to Guillory, but there's still no word of him making a definitive turn toward the starting spot. He'll be a nice change-of-pace back at times this year, but probably little more than that.
Could See the Field
Jewel Hampton (5'9", 200, Fr.) - At least one of the incoming freshmen will play this season. Heading into fall practice, the smart money was on Jeff Brinson. With one week to go, though, the inside word points to Jewel Hampton, the unheralded recruit out of Indianapolis. He didn't get the press or the accolades (2 stars from both Scout and Rivals), but the sumbitch produced (2100 yards and 27 touchdowns on 280 carries as a high school senior). He was pursued by Ball State, Cincinnati, and Iowa. We win. We always do. Anyway, Hampton has been impressive and has the coaches talking about how a true freshman could contribute in this system. He probably won't play too often, but he'll likely avoid a redshirt.
Jeff Brinson (5'11", 215, Fr.) - Brinson was widely considered the most likely freshman contributor, right up until he missed a week of practice with an undisclosed injury. Jeff was a 3-star recruit out of Florida who ran up a ton of yards in a single-wing system. He received offers from Purdue, Michigan State, Kansas, and Florida (late in the game). Rivals named him a "sleeper" recruit, whatever that means. I think he'll redshirt; it's hard enough for a freshman to play, but a freshman who misses a big chunk of August camp probably doesn't have enough opportunity to shine.
Jayme Murphy (5'10". 210, Soph.) - Previously discussed as a safety. I would normally say there's no chance, but he keeps showing up in every comment made by the coaching staff. Still, guided missile on special teams generally translates to safety. If this turns into 2004 again, he could be Sam Brownlee.
Jordan McLaughlin (6'0". 230, Sr.) - Former walk-on. Former linebacker. Former wrestler. Not experienced. Not Tom Busch. Not the host of The McLaughlin Group. To the extent Iowa has a starting fullback this season, McLaughlin is it.
Brett Morse (6'3", 235, Soph.) - Slightly more intriguing. Morse was, for one thing, actually recruited to play fullback. For another, he's a former high school quarterback. Cue Morse/Mossbrucker exotics. Third, he's tall enough that he could be 250 by his junior year without trying. Probably will split time with McLaughlin this year, but the personnel dictates far more 3WR sets, and that means fewer snaps for the fullbacks.