Quick Slants: Battle brewing at Iowa running back

New special teams coach has players having fun

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DES MOINES -- You know Mark Weisman will run the ball. And yes, Damon Bullock will run it. After Sunday's performance, Jordan Canzeri has to fit in there somewhere.

Yes, so let's go ahead and start the Iowa running back controversy. Really, wouldn't that be progress over the Iowa running back wheel of misfortune that has shrouded the position for much of the last four seasons?

During Sunday's open scrimmage, we learned that Weisman, the 240-pound discovery of '12, will play some fullback and carry the ball out of the running back position. He seems to be the number offensive coordinator Greg Davis calls for sweeps, taking one for 29 yards Sunday.

Junior Damon Bullock will run the ball out from running back, but he'll also line up in the slot and, Sunday showed, on the outside as a wide receiver. Canzeri was the most exciting and consistent runner Iowa had Sunday, with long runs of 39 and 21 yards.

Iowa is putting together a running back collage that, at least nine practices into spring, looks pretty interesting.

"We like Mark and Damon," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "They're different kinds of backs, but we consider both of them starters. Jordan looked really good today, too, and that was encouraging."

Bullock sees all three running backs getting touches.

"I feel like we can be leaders in the offense and try to make as many plays as we can," said Bullock, who rushed for 513 yards and three TDs last season. "We're ready to be a great offense this year."

Special teams newness

Iowa showcased some new special teams drills that coordinator Chris White brought in from four seasons as special teams assistant with the Minnesota Vikings.

At the end of practice, a punt returner was given the ball and told to go when two defenders, who started 20 yards down field, got within 7 yards. The results were interesting. The players seemed charged up by the change to do something in an isolated drill.

"It's been fun to watch him [White] work with the guys, I think they're enjoying it," Ferentz said. "They've enjoyed his style and the things he's doing with them. I've seen some good things on the field and the film afterwards."

Iowa didn't do extensive placekicking drills during Sunday's practice. There was an extreme wind out of the south. Punters Connor Kornbrath and Jonny Mullings competed, and Kornbrath seems to have an edge. Among the players tried in returns were wide receivers Kevonte Martin-Manley and Jordan Cotton, Canzeri and cornerback Maurice Fleming.

Fighting Artichoke

The thought all along with Iowa's No. 2 QB last season was that it was Jake Rudock and Jake Rudock only.

Sunday, junior Cody Sokol said he split the No. 2 job with Rudock. As you know, the No. 2 QB never took a snap for the Hawkeyes last fall. Rudock was the only one who could've done it without burning a redshirt. Sokol sat out last season after transferring from Scottsdale Community College. C.J. Beathard redshirted as a true freshman.

"I wouldn't say it's an advantage," Sokol said. "It's all new. It's a new offense. This is the first time in the spring that we've been able to repeat what we've started. Everyone is kind of coming in fresh with a better understanding."

In his sophomore year for the Scottsdale CC Fighting Artichokes, Sokol threw for 3,807 yards, 43 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Yes, the Fighting Artichokes.

"I still have some gear at home, I still sport the Artichokes," Sokol said with a laugh. "It is kind of funny. I think it was great mascot. People didn't take us seriously because of our logo, but I liked it. We went out there and won some games."

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