Just as expected, Kirk Ferentz turned to the run game early on Saturday afternoon. With LeShun Daniels Jr healthy, many expected him to get the load of the carries. While he started out the game getting the first carry of the season, and eventually the first touchdown run from a yard out, Ferentz took advantage of his other running back, as well.
After being the third string running back last season, Akrum Wadley is finally in line to see a solid workload this year. He showed his explosiveness and big play ability against Northwestern in his only start in 2015, but in 2016 he’s set to see consistent carries and will need to be able to churn out consistent chunks of yards.
Wadley did just that in week one. He saw 12 carries, compared to Daniels 10, and finished the afternoon with 121 yards and two scores. Daniels had the long run of the afternoon with a 43-yard touchdown run, however Wadley scored from five and 11 yards out. More importantly, the Hawkeyes showed that they weren’t afraid to use either back.
It may have been due to the fact that it was week one, or that Wadley was averaging over 10 yards per carry, but the coaches were not afraid to go to Wadley more than Daniels. His elusiveness and solid running definitely instilled confidence in the coaching staff.
Plus, Wadley added three receptions for 21 yards. Jordan Canzeri was a big part of the Hawkeyes pass game last season, with Daniels needing to step up in 2016 to be a bigger part of the offense. Iowa may be leaning on a different back, though. Wadley’s size, speed and quickness is more comparable to a prototypical pass-catching back.
It was only one week, however it doesn’t seem like Iowa will favor either back this season. Both got touches in the red zone and Wadley is proving that he’s more useful than a change of pace back this year. I would expect Daniels to continue to start, considering he averaged 8.3 yards per carry, but Iowa could have one of the most dynamic running back combos in the nation.
Next: Jerminic Smith