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IOWA CITY — Former Iowa football star Ladell Betts took over for Derrick Foster as the Hawkeyes’ new running backs coach and inherits an experienced core looking to dominate the season.
Betts, Iowa’s second-leading rusher drafted by the Washington Football Team in 2002, is making the transition from coaching high school working in his old stomping ground. He recently coached at Pine Crest High School in Boca Raton, Fla., where he was offensive coordinator from 2016-18 and head coach from 2019-20, leading his team to an undefeated season in 2020. He also coached the NFL Prep 100 Series from 2011-14.
“I think the biggest learning curve will be the recruiting process,” Betts said in April. “Obviously there’s a lot of compliance things that I have to learn from this side I haven't been privy to as of yet, but as far as coaching, it’s football at the end of the day, and I feel comfortable in that.”
The system will remain the same, since the offense hasn’t changed much since he left. As an NFL veteran, Betts said his goal is to teach skills that make a more holistic running back, such as blocking and receiving.
“The truth is there’s running backs all over the country that know how to run,” Betts said. “There’s a lot of nuances to the position, and being in the NFL you get to learn a lot of those nuances: How to run routes, how to catch the ball, how to block. All those little techniques separate just your average tailback to take your game to the next level.”
Junior running back Tyler Goodson expects to lead the pack after receiving first-team All-Big Ten honors and being named to the watch list for the 2020 Doak Walker Award, which he hopes to capture this season. Last season, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for a team-high of 762 yards. He also caught 15 passes for 152 yards.
“Let’s just say I want to be the Doak Walker Award winner, that’s what I want to be,” Goodson said following the final open spring practice on May 1. “I feel like the O-line in front of me will get me there. From there it’s about taking it slow, taking it day-to-day.”
Ivory Kelly-Martin was out during the spring, rehabbing an injury, but as a senior he brings a wealth of experience to the position. During the seven games he played last season, Kelly-Martin rushed for 54 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, along with three receptions for 22 yards and returning two kickoffs for 40 yards.
Betts called him the “elder statesman of the group,” someone who has been active in meetings and helping the younger players during practice.
Younger players like redshirt freshmen Leshon Williams and Gavin Williams saw time on the field during the two open spring football practices.
“I definitely would feel comfortable putting those guys in,” Betts said. “They’re different runners, different styles. Gavin’s probably the bigger body in the room, more of a rhythm runner, meaning the more carries he gets I think the more effective he’ll be. Leshon is the life of the room — he makes me laugh every day. When he runs, he’s deceptively quick. I didn’t realize how good his feet were until I got here.”
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