Iowa's Hampton ready to roll after knee scare

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
6:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa fans can't wait for Jewel Hampton to wrong-foot opposing defenders this fall as he steps into huge shoes following the departure of Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene.

Turns out, Hampton has already dodged his first major bullet.

The Hawkeyes sophomore running back is recovering well from a knee injury he sustained in summer workouts. Hampton lists himself at 90-95 percent and participated in Iowa's first preseason practice Friday morning.

The initial prognosis looked much worse.

"If anybody in my position was told their season could be taken away, that would be heartbreaking, as it was for me," Hampton said Friday. "Like I said, I kept a good head about it and just bounced back."

Hampton didn't go into specifics about the injury and wasn't sure if he'll use a brace in games. He didn't show much of a limp while walking around during Iowa's media day.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Hampton isn't limited in practice, though he and the rest of Iowa's running backs won't take on much contact during camp. Hampton will even get a shot to be a starting kickoff returner, an area where Ferentz wants to upgrade.

"He's had a good month of July," Ferentz said of Hampton.

Hampton filled in well as Greene's backup last year, rushing for 463 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 carries. He has much more in-game experience than fellow backs Paki O'Meara and Jeff Brinson, but Ferentz hinted that the Hawkeyes likely will use a rotation at running back.

A committee system could be the solution for Iowa, but Hampton is intent on following Greene's footsteps.

"If you want to be a starter, you should be a starter," he said. "That's how I approach it. I'm just looking forward to trying to fill Shonn's shoes.

"I really don't set goals during the season. I just accomplish things."

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