Another week, another Iowa player winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors? Yep. But that's to be expected when your running back erupts for 204 yards and 4 touchdowns on 26 carries -- especially when that game comes on the road against an opponent that was conceding just 131 yards per game on the ground before last Saturday. Then Iowa rolled up almost three bills (294 yards total -- actually 314 yards with sack yardage removed) on them, with Akrum Wadley doing most of that damage. So step on down, Mr. Wadley, and collect your Player of the Week prize -- it's well-deserved.
Wadley has flashed some very impressive skills for Iowa dating back to, well, the last time he played Northwestern -- he turned some heads against the Wildcats last year when he ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in Iowa's 48-7 rout. Little did we know that was just the appetizer to the five-course meal that he'd treat Iowa fans to this past weekend. Wadley has a skill set that's not really duplicated in any current Iowa running back -- and hasn't been seen in any Iowa running back for a while (maybe since Brandon Wegher?). He has good speed -- maybe not great speed, but very good speed (on his first touchdown of the day, he zips by a Northwestern defender who seems to have an angle on him)-- and he also has excellent shiftiness and impressive acceleration.
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley's plant-and-go & hip fluidity remind me of former Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas; similar economy of movement— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) October 19, 2015
Don't think Wadley has the same top gear that DAT has but Wadley is a little bigger than DAT; lightning in a bottle type of player— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) October 19, 2015
Given the holes the Iowa offensive line was opening on Saturday, a lot of running backs probably could have looked good -- they absolutely manhandled Northwestern's defenders and left Wadley (and Mitchell) some pretty gargantuan holes to burst through. But Wadley really made the most of those holes and showed great instincts in knowing how to move to the hole, how to burst through the hole, and how to juke and slide right by defenders. Look at some of his runs near the goal line for great examples of his body control.
The problem with Wadley, of course, is ball control. He put the ball on the ground several times in his limited appearances last season and he had a fumble in a cameo appearance earlier this season. For all the upside Wadley and his unique skill set brings to the Iowa offense, those fumbles are a pretty significant downside. But he didn't fumble on Saturday (in 26 carries -- by far the heaviest workload of his career) and if he's really turned the corner on ball security issues, he could be a very potent weapon for the Iowa offense for the back half of this season. Visions of doom and gloom danced before our eyes when Jordan Canzeri went down with a gruesome-looking ankle injury in the first quarter on Saturday, but if Wadley runs like he did on Saturday (and protects the ball), we may end up missing Canzeri much less than we expected.
Wadley becomes the second-straight Iowa running back to earn Player of the Week honors (Canzeri earned them last week after his own stellar 200+ yard performance), as well as the third different Iowa player to win POTW plaudits this season. As you might imagine, it's been a while -- a long while -- since Iowa had three different Offensive POTW winners in a season.
First time Iowa has had 3 different players win Offensive POTW in a season since 1997 (Dwight, Banks and Thein). https://t.co/JokPgMXmmi— Matt Benson (@mbenson6) October 19, 2015
Wadley also becomes the fifth Iowa player to win Player of the Week honors this season -- in fact, the only two games where an Iowa player didn't earn Player of the Week honors were the laughers over Illinois State and North Texas. The win is the thing and Iowa's 7-0 record is obviously the best reflection of owa's excellent start to the 2015 season, but the team couldn't have racked up those wins without some tremendous individual performances, so it's nice to see those performances being recognized.
So kudos to you, Mr. Wadley. We can't wait to see what you do for an encore against the Terps in two weeks.