116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY -- Of course, Bobby Kennedy knows his players. He's seen them practice . . . for about a week . . . four months before it really, really matters.
So, yes, Iowa's wide receivers coach knows his group. What he doesn't know is how it will all turn out.
'Y'all get tired of me saying this, but I always say, we're a work in progress,” Kennedy said Wednesday. 'Every year you start over, and you have some guys who are a little more established, a little more game tested.”
Kennedy and running backs/special teams coordinator Chris White met with the media Wednesday. Their position groups begin 2014 in much different places.
Kennedy has four redshirt freshmen jumping into action in Derrick Willies, Derrick Mitchell Jr., Andre Harris and A.J. Jones.
'I'm really pleased that we decided to redshirt some of those guys, because I think they've got the ability to really maybe change the, not necessarily the face of our program, but our ability outside to make plays.”
Iowa's receivers also should get a boost from senior Damond Powell. He wowed with a few big plays last fall -- most notably the 74-yard tunnel screen when he went untouched to help Iowa pull away at Minnesota -- and now, he's more familiar with the offense and more physically developed.
'I just think his overall understanding of stems and attacking the DB [defensive back], getting in and out of his cuts, not thinking as much,” Kennedy said. 'Whether it be a freshman or a guy who comes in from a junior college, a lot of times their mind locks them up because they're thinking so much and so their athletic ability can't take over.”
White has his top four backs returning from last season, including senior Mark Weisman, who's led the Hawkeyes in rushing the last two seasons (1,789 yards). Senior Damon Bullock, junior Jordan Canzeri and sophomore LeShun Daniels return proven roles (some moreso than others), ranging from Bullock's feel for the passing game to Canzeri's running back skill set to Daniels' 230-pound build and the potential that lies within.
Here's some quick takes from White on all four:
Weisman, who's had fullback attached to his name this spring: 'I'm not an NFL scout, but Mark's future is at fullback, I believe,” White said. 'He can go in there at the drop of a dime and play fullback for us. It's old hat for him.”
White continued that Weisman doesn't practice at fullback because it's a collision position. He also said, 'I think everyone in the room would agree that we probably wore Mark out a little bit. His productivity diminished a little bit after the Michigan State game. He stuck his cleat in the ground a little bit and hurt his foot, and he had a stretch for four or five games where we really didn't practice him a lot, and it showed on the field. He didn't get as many reps, but I thought he finished the season well against Michigan and Nebraska.”
On Canzeri: 'He's 190 pounds. We felt that pass protection was a concern, and he's addressed that. But what I've learned from him is that he's a really good running back. He was instinctually probably the best running back we have in terms of seeing things and making his cuts and having the balance that we want with bursting through a hole. He's a talented kid.”
Bullock, whose name has been thrown around in regard to wide receiver (not happening, White said): 'He does a great job in pass protection, he runs routes real well, catches the ball out of the backfield, and he's working on some things in the running game that we pointed out in the off-season that he needs to work on.”
Daniels only had 36 carries as a true freshman last season, but he's very much in this whatever it is at running back for Iowa.
'He's kind of transformed his body a little bit. He's very muscular, as you know, but he's really worked on trying to be more flexible in the upper body and lower body, and I think it's really helped him out. You can see it on the field. He's explosive, he's faster and he's making better cuts.”
White said that Iowa has a running back something. Log jam? Controversy? With possibly nine running backs on scholarship next fall, it's definitely a something.
'we're trying to figure that out right now,” White said when asked how carries might be divided. '. . . I wish there was one guy that could do it all, I really do. It would make my job easier, but all the other guys in the room would not be happy.”
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