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23 Days Until Hawkeye Football: Shadrick Byrd

Is there a role for the redshirt freshman from Alabama in 2020?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Penn State at Iowa
Can Shardick Byrd find a role in a crowded backfield?
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A redshirt sophomore from Michigan and a walk on true freshman from the Hawkeye state are on deck as we continue our daily countdown to the return of Iowa football.

Shadrick Byrd, RS Freshman
Alabaster, AL (Thompson)
5’10”, 210 lbs
2020 Projection: Reserve RB, Special Teams

When it comes to recruiting, Iowa has a recipe: load up early and often on kids from the midwest who play positions you’ve got a proven track record developing, then supplement as needed from hotbeds such as Florida where kids can fall through the cracks, and round things out with late bloomers nobody else noticed.

Shadrick Byrd doesn’t fit with Iowa’s typical recipe. For starters, the class of 2019 commit is from a state Iowa rarely recruits: Alabama. That’s the deep south rather than a national recruiting hotbed like Florida or Texas, and a place that typically sees its under the radar types land at schools in the south.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Byrd wasn’t under the radar. Despite being Iowa’s second commit in the class with Tyler Goodson, Byrd chose the Hawkeyes over offers from a good chunk of the ACC, including Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Those offers were earned on the back of more than 1,800 total yards and 17 touchdowns in a senior season that saw him named to Alabama’s All-State team.

He ultimately committed in December of 2018 and signed in the early signing period, meaning he fell somewhere between that second and third wave of recruiting for the Iowa staff, but didn’t really fit with either. Credit to running backs coach Derrick Foster for not only finding a quality second back in the class after focusing on Goodson for so long, but for being able to actually reel him in (and from a state Iowa almost never recruits, no less).

In terms of skillset, Byrd reminds a bit of fellow Iowa back Mekhi Sargent. He isn’t as dynamic as Goodson and lacks the breakaway speed, but he has balance, patience and more power than Goodson. The two would make a very good 1-2 punch if not for the fact Iowa already has the aforementioned Sargent on roster, as well as redshirt junior Ivory Kelly-Martin.

The current depth at running back is something Iowa has rarely enjoyed under Kirk Ferentz. The existence of a certain deity which shall remain unnamed has long wreaked havoc on Iowa’s backfield. It’s entirely possible that happens in 2020, particularly with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But absent a series of injuries, it’s hard to see a significant role for Byrd in his redshirt freshman season. It’s much more likely we see him get some spot duty in the event of a blowout while biding his time on special teams.

With Sargent set to graduate after this season, Byrd will likely have his chance to earn a substantial role as a redhsirt sophomore in 2021. As an upperclassman, he has all the tools to work as a lead back in Iowa’s offense.