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2022 position previews: Running back

Iowa is as green as it’s been in the backfield but the talent seems there

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Iowa vs Michigan Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa lost two contributors at running back off last year’s squad: Tyler Goodson & Ivory Kelly-Martin. Gavin Williams returns as the lowest high man since 2018, post-Akrum Wadley, and Toren Young as the leading returner with 185 yards.

Williams had a sneaky good on ramp as backup running back and finished with 305 yards on 65 carries. Over half of them came in the season’s final three games but now we’re getting a little to preview-y in the intro. Let’s get to the guys.

The “they’re not brothers”

Gavin and fellow redshirt sophomore Leshon Williams rekindled some thunder & lightning magic in the Citrus Bowl as Iowa made hay against a depleted Kentucky Wildcat front. The 5.8 yards they two combined to average was the best Iowa performed in yards/carry all season.

So there’s reason to believe in the optimism.

Both displayed a willingness to run between the tackles and have some breakaway speed, especially considering Gavin’s history as a former sprinter. He entered as the slightly more higher rated running back, 150 spots higher than Leshon.

Though both are listed above 210 pounds (hopefully we don’t have that storyline this year) Leshon packs it into two less inches at 5’10”. His 2021 was much less prolific than Gavin’s with just 21 carries for 69 (nice) yards.

Anyways, here are there recruiting highlights because there’s no splice of their carries this season.

The highlights back the reason for optimism: neither back is afraid between the tackles. Both show enough elusiveness to make things interesting when they’ve got the ball in space. Their ability to succeed will be, in part, a function of how much growth which existed in the trenches for the bowl game carries over into the 2022 regular season.

The freshmen

Kaleb Johnson is built like a freight train. He was the #3 recruit of the past class behind Xavier Nwankpa & Aaron Graves. Of the three mentioned so far, he’s the one who looks most like someone who can break a ton of tackles.

He selected Iowa over Iowa State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, and a handful of Big Ten schools.

Jaziun Patterson hails from Florida as part of Iowa’s push into the state behind Ladell Betts. His offer list was interesting with teams like Alabama, Michigan, and Texas A&M. Methinks those weren’t committable offers.

Nonetheless, Patterson is perhaps the quickest of the four and certainly has high aspirations with the lack of a foregone conclusion at the position.

The fullback

With Iowa going through it receiver-wise, talk of who fills that fifth skill position spot is getting interesting, to put it lightly. Monte Pottebaum could be in line for a huge uptick in field time as an H-Back type player. While I’d be slightly surprised if we see an insane uptick, Pottebaum had 19 touches for 85 yards, including a spicy 5.1 yards/carry.

He’s probably in line for 2 touches a game.

Backups

Redshirt freshman Deavin Hilson sat out last season. But he was a four-sport athlete in high school and the first Des Moines North Polar Bear to get a Hawkeye offer in forever. Max White and Nolan Donald are walk-ons who could vie for special teams time.

Turner Pallisard is listed as backup fullback. Johnny Plewa and Denin Lemouris are fellow fullbacks on the roster.


The Hawkeyes have plenty of potential at running back but will need to see the talent coalesce behind an improved offensive line to make hay in the run game. I expect three running backs to find roles with Pottebaum being a key short yardage weapon for the Hawks.