In 2008, Iowa caught a big break at the running back position when Shonn Greene went from furniture warehouse employee to Doak Walker Award winner.
Since then, the Hawkeyes haven't had much good fortune with their running backs. Whether it's injuries or off-field problems, Iowa's running back depth has taken hit after hit since Greene's magical season.
The latest blow came Tuesday as the team announced starting running back Marcus Coker has been suspended for the Insight Bowl for disciplinary reasons. Iowa didn't elaborate on the suspension, saying only that Coker violated the school's student-athlete code of conduct. The sophomore will not travel with the team to Arizona later this week.
It marks the second consecutive year Iowa will play the Insight Bowl without its top back. Adam Robinson was suspended for the game last year for failing to comply with team policies. Iowa announced Robinson's suspension on the same day it confirmed running back Jewel Hampton, the team's second-leading rusher in 2008, would be transferring. Hampton dealt with injuries and off-field issues. Another promising running back, Brandon Wegher, announced late last season that he would also be transferring (he took a leave of absence from the team in August 2010). Weeks after Iowa announced Robinson's suspension, Robinson was arrested for marijuana possession.
Coker ended up rescuing Iowa in the 2010 Insight Bowl, rushing for a team bowl record 219 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Missouri.
He has been a huge part of Iowa's offense this season, accounting for 80.7 percent of the team's rushing yards (1,384), 15 of the team's 18 rush touchdowns and 281 of the team's 417 carries. Coker leads the Big Ten in carries and ranks second in rushing average (115.3 ypg).
Who will Iowa turn to at running back? Promising freshman Mika'il McCall was suspended for the regular-season finale against Nebraska, and his status for the bowl game is very much in doubt.
It's hard not to see Iowa becoming pretty one-dimensional against Oklahoma. The good news is the Sooners struggle against the pass, ranking 83rd nationally.
The bigger issue is why Iowa can't keep running backs on the field. The Hawkeyes seem to have little trouble developing running backs, but the lack of depth has become a major problem.