IOWA CITY — He absolutely trucked a guy in his first carry of the 2018 season last Saturday afternoon.
Toren Young took a handoff from quarterback Nate Stanley early in the third quarter of Iowa’s 33-7 win over Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium on a zone run left. NIU’s middle linebacker stepped up into the hole to make the tackle.
The result was a 2015 Chevy Silverado meeting a helpless raccoon along a desolate highway. Boom, instant roadkill.
Young ran over the defender, knocked him onto his back, and sprinted down the sideline for a 40-year run.
“That feels good. Definitely feels good,” Young said, with a smile. “It was exciting. Just got to release some emotions on that play. It was real fun, just fun to be out there with the guys.”
That it took over a half for Young to get a touch wasn’t the plan, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. Iowa has three running backs, and all three were supposed to have first-half carries.
But starter Ivory Kelly-Martin and backup Mekhi Sargent rushed a combined 16 times and Young zero. The 5-foot-11, 211-pound sophomore finally got his opportunity and literally ran with it, finishing with a team-high 84 yards on eight attempts.
That included a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth to help Iowa pull away.
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“It definitely felt good to get out there and make a play,” Young said. “The O-line did a great job on that play. The tight ends, fullback, they all did a good job all day.”
“He’s a hard, physical guy, and he plays to his strengths,” Ferentz said postgame Saturday. “That’s what he’ll give us. We, as a staff, look at all three of those guys as prominent guys on our team. I envision us having a rotation and playing all three. (Young) has to run physical, and he did that today. That gave us a spark.”
Young is from Madison, Wis., of all places, prepped at Monona Grove High School, where he rushed for 2,800 yards as a senior. But the hometown Wisconsin Badgers didn’t offer him a scholarship, he committed early to Iowa and stuck with that commitment.
“(Wisconsin) recruited me a little bit but never offered. It was something I understood,” Young said. “Each school, each athlete, you have different fits and different things. I found the best fit for me, and they found the best fits for them. I love the position I’m in. I love being here at Iowa, and I love my teammates. I like where I’m at.”
It appeared Young was going to be “the guy” for Iowa in the backfield after spring practice, but Kelly-Martin, a sophomore from the Chicago suburbs, won the starting job in fall practice. Sargent, a junior college transfer from Iowa Western, impressed as well and was the first guy to spell Kelly-Martin against Northern Illinois.
Kelly-Martin injured an ankle in that game, and it’s uncertain how healthy he will be going into Saturday’s tilt against Iowa State. He’s still the listed starter, with Young and Sargent his backups, but, as Ferentz said, all three will get work.
They bring different talents to the table: Sargent the small guy with quick feet, Young the power guy (a violent runner, as his high school coach described him) and Kelly-Martin kind of a combination of both.
“I definitely think we all have different strengths,” Young said. “We’ve all got something different to bring to the table. That makes our group unique.”
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Akrum Wadley was Iowa’s workhorse back season, its No. 1, but that doesn’t appear to be anything that’ll happen this season. It appears it’s going to be 1, 1B and 1C.
These three guys are OK with that, at least publicly. The hot hand will continue to get fed.
“It’s situational,” Young said. “Whatever is working best for us, I think, is what we’re going to do. Like I said, we’ve all got different things we bring to the table. Some people are better in certain situations, and the coaches are going to put us in the best positions to succeed.”
“Whoever is in there, we have confidence in them.”
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