NCF Nation: Mika'il McCall

Did you think AIRBHG would rest during the holiday season? Not a chance.

Unfortunately for Iowa, the running back exits continue as freshman Greg Garmon has decided to transfer from the team. There's nothing official from Iowa, but Garmon told multiple media outlets that he asked for and received his release from head coach Kirk Ferentz on Wednesday.

Garmon said Iowa wasn't a good fit for him, and Ferentz agreed.

A heralded recruit from Erie, Pa., Garmon saw the field a bit this fall and had 38 carries for 122 yards to go along with eight receptions for 57 yards. His playing time decreased following the emergence of Mark Weisman and the return of Damon Bullock from injury.

Iowa's running back depth -- knock on wood -- looks good for 2013 as Weisman, Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and Barkley Hill all return. But Garmon would have been a nice part of the mix, and his departure continues a frustrating trend for Iowa, which now has lost four running backs -- Garmon, Marcus Coker, Mika'il McCall and DeAndre Johnson -- in the past year. Garmon is the seventh Iowa running back to transfer in the past three seasons.

There's not much left to say about Iowa's unusual attrition at running back. Garmon's departure isn't as damaging because the team has others in line, but it raises more questions about why the Hawkeyes can't keep talented ball-carriers.

Big Ten stock report: Week 6

October, 3, 2012
The NASDAQ and the Nikkei got nothing on this market.

Stock up

Penn State's Killer Zs: Zach Zwinak was no better than the fifth-string tailback for the Nittany Lions this summer. But in the last two games, the 230-pound sophomore has rushed for 94 yards against Temple and an even 100 versus Illinois. "He's got good speed, but he's not a scat back," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a physical, downhill guy that likes to press the line of scrimmage." Penn State's second-leading rusher is Michael Zordich, a senior whose 30 carries this year are just five shy of his previous career total. Don't sleep on these Zs.

Jordan Cotton: The Iowa receiver came to campus as a well-regarded in-state recruit but spent two years doing not much of anything after a redshirt season. Cotton is finally emerging, with four catches in the Hawkeyes' last two games, including a 47-yard touchdown grab on a flea flicker last week against Minnesota. Cotton is averaging 20.2 yards per catch this season.

[+] EnlargePenn State's Zach Zwinak
Bradley Leeb/US PRESSWIREZach Zwinak has rushed for a combined 194 yards in Penn State's past two games.
Ohio State's offensive line: A maligned group most of the offseason and even early in the year, the Buckeyes' offensive front exerted its will last week at Michigan State. Ohio State ran for more than 200 yards against a Spartans defense that was leading the Big Ten and was among the best in the nation against the run. What's more, they closed out the 17-16 win by churning out yards and first downs in the final minutes when Michigan State knew the run was coming. Urban Meyer named his five starters the offensive MVP after the game. "Those five guys are locked and loaded," he said. "That's the group right now that I'm most pleased with."

Nate Sudfeld: The Indiana quarterback didn't arrive on campus until this summer but looks like he should be starting going into Week 6. Sudfeld replaced an injured Cameron Coffman against Ball State and led a rally that nearly won the game for the Hoosiers. Last week, after IU fell behind Northwestern 20-0 in the first half, Sudfeld came on right before halftime and gave the offense a spark, leading a comeback that ultimately came up short. Sudfeld is still competing in practice with Coffman for the starting job, but his needle is definitely pointing up.

Blackshirts' seniors: When Nebraska needed to make a defensive stand after falling 17 points down to Wisconsin last week, its seniors stepped up. Defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebackers Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley and Sean Fisher combined for eight tackles for loss and two sacks to stymie the Badgers and lead the comeback effort. Compton in particular had a terrific game. The Huskers veterans haven't always performed at an elite level, and they'll need to carry that Wisconsin effort over to this weekend and beyond in order to win the Big Ten.

Stock down

Minnesota's safeties: Jerry Kill said one big reason his team couldn't stop the Iowa running game last week is that his safeties missed too many tackles in run support. Even Derrick Wells, who's had a fantastic season, turned in a poor performance, Kill said. The Gophers will spend much of the bye week working on improving that with their safeties, and getting Brock Vereen back fully healthy should help.

Michigan's road production: As Kyle Meinke writes, the Wolverines are averaging 20.9 points per game on the road the past two seasons, compared with more than 40 at home. This year, Michigan has scored just 20 total points in its two games away from Ann Arbor (albeit against outstanding defenses in Alabama and Notre Dame). Denard Robinson's numbers are much worse away from the Big House as well. It's an issue the team must resolve before going to Purdue this week

Ex-Iowa running backs: The grass isn't always greener, even if it's FieldTurf. As Mike Hlas points out, former Hawkeyes running backs Marcus Coker and Mika'il McCall aren't exactly flourishing after leaving Iowa City. Coker is the second-leading rusher on his team at FCS Stony Brook and ranks 66th in the division in rushing yards. McCall has 8 fewer yards than Coker at Southern Illinois. Neither of them have come close to walk-on Mark Weisman's 507 yards, which he's accomplished in a mere three games. So maybe it's not the player, but the system.

Peace, love and understanding between Spartans, Buckeyes: Mark Dantonio wasn't the biggest fan of Urban Meyer during recruiting season last winter. Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said before last week's game that he would try to rip Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell's head off. Hankins nearly had his eyes gouged out by the Spartans in a scrum. And defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi complained that the Buckeyes didn't send over the proper game film. Can't we all just get along?

Illinois' offense: Weren't the Illini supposed to be more explosive with Tim Beckman's spread attack? The team ranks 97th in the country in scoring at just 22.6 points per game and 96th in total offense. And those totals include a stat-padding 44-0 win over a truly awful FCS opponent (Charleston Southern). Not much has gone right for Illinois this year, but if the program wants to start building interest among its fans, scoring some points would be a nice way to start.
Last week in our look at the Best Case/Worst Case for Iowa, I poked fun at the seemingly endless line of problems at running back for the Hawkeyes.

No amount of fiction can match the absurdity of reality, however. Even more bad news involving the Big Ten's most cursed position arrived this afternoon, as Iowa confirmed this weekend's fear: freshman tailback Barkley Hill has torn his ACL and is out for the season.

Simply unreal.

Hill, who hurt the knee in the Hawkeyes' scrimmage on Saturday, was a candidate to start at tailback, along with sophomore Damon Bullock and fellow freshman Greg Garmon. But no one who is playing that position in Iowa City can ever feel safe.

A quick rundown of what has happened to Hawkeyes' ball-carriers just since the end of last season:
  • Marcus Coker, the team's leading rusher and one of the top backs in the Big Ten, transferred to FCS Stony Brook after some off-the-field issues;
  • Mika'il McCall, Coker's backup, left the team after a season in which he missed significant time because of injury and a suspension;
  • Jordan Canzeri tore his ACL in spring practice;
  • De'Andre Johnson has two run-ins with police in a three-day span and is dismissed from the team;
  • Hill's injury.

And that's just in the past 10 months. We haven't even gotten into the history involving Adam Robinson, Jewel Hampton and on and on and on.

I'm not normally one to believe in curses or jinxes. I never thought the Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino" was a real thing and was instead simply a media creation. But it's getting harder and harder not to believe in the AIRHBG ("Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God"), a term coined by the Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants.

As for the future, it looks like the Hawkeyes will turn to Bullock and Garmon as their main running backs to start the season. Depth is basically non-existent. And if I'm either guy, I don't walk under any ladders any time soon.
Is the Iowa running back curse striking again?

Incoming freshman Greg Garmon, who was scheduled to report this weekend and compete for immediate playing time this fall, was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession on June 1 in his hometown of Erie, Pa., according to multiple media reports.

It remains unclear what this will do to Garmon's status with the Hawkeyes. Marc Morehouse points out in the Cedar Rapids-Gazette a wrestler named Cayle Byers never made it to Iowa after an incident with police, while running back/wide receiver Michael Malloy lost his scholarship and will walk-on after being arrested in Nebraska on several charges, including drug paraphernalia. But every case is different, so it's too soon to jump to conclusions about Garmon's future.

What we do know is that Iowa can't afford to lose another running back, after Marcus Coker transferred, Mika'il McCall left the team and Jordan Canzeri tore his ACL. Garmon is one of two freshmen tailbacks coming in; the other, Barkley Hill, recently reported to campus. Damon Bullock and De’Andre Johnson are the other options on scholarship.

Garmon rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 touchdowns in high school and is one of the jewels of Iowa's 2012 recruiting class.

We'll wait to see whether this legal trouble will affect his fate with the Hawkeyes, as we also wonder again whether the Iowa running back curse is ever going to end.

Big Ten recruiting team wraps

February, 2, 2012
National signing day is in the books, and it's time to evaluate the Big Ten teams and their classes. Although several potential Big Ten recruits are announcing their plans after signing day, most of the classes are complete.

Here's how ESPN Recruiting graded the Big Ten classes Insider.

Let's take a look at how teams filled their big recruiting needs:


The Illini have had a nice run at defensive tackle with 2011 NFL first-round draft pick Corey Liuget and Akeem Spence, who enters 2012 as a legitimate pro prospect. They solidified the interior line for the future with recruits like Teko Powell and Vontrell Williams.


It's no secret Indiana needs to make significant upgrades on defense, and coach Kevin Wilson looked to the junior college ranks for help. Indiana added six juco defenders, including cornerback Tregg Waters and linebacker Jacarri Alexander. These players give the Hoosiers a chance to get better in a hurry.


Running back has again become a pressing need for Iowa with the departures of Marcus Coker and Mika'il McCall. While Iowa has lost running backs at an alarming rate, it also has developed young backs very well in recent years. The coaches hope to work their magic with Greg Garmon, who could be the most significant recruit of the 2012 class.


Arguably no staff in the country makes defensive line a bigger priority than Michigan, which has three coaches, including head man Brady Hoke, focused on the front four. The Wolverines lose standouts Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen from the 2011 line, but they addressed the situation in recruiting with pickups like defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins and defensive end Chris Wormley.


Michigan State is creating a nice recruiting pipeline at the wide receiver position. The Spartans lose their top two wideouts from 2011 (B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin) but added several nice receiver pickups in the 2012, including Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett and four-star prospects Monty Madaris and Aaron Burbridge.


Quarterback MarQueis Gray returns, and Minnesota needed to get him some help in the passing game after the departure of Da'Jon McKnight. The Gophers added some excellent pickups at the wide receiver position in Andre McDonald and Jamel Harbison.


The Huskers were thin at linebacker in 2011 and lose standout Lavonte David to graduation. Nebraska coaches also have discussed the need to add more traditional linebackers to face Big Ten offenses. Big Red filled the need in the 2012 recruiting classes with players such as Michael Rose and Jared Afalava.


Defense has been Northwestern's downfall in the past two years, and the Wildcats need more difference-makers on that side of the ball. They likely landed one in end/linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo, an ESPNU 150 prospect who is Northwestern's most decorated defensive recruit in recent memory. Odenigbo could help immediately as a situational pass-rusher.


No Big Ten team made a bigger impact at one position than Ohio State did along the defensive line. The Buckeyes, who were a bit thin up front in 2011, got a lot better with this class, which is headlined by ESPNU 150 prospects Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Se'Von Pittman and Tommy Schutt.


Skyler Mornhinweg's decommitment stings a bit, as Penn State needs more quarterbacks in the mix, but the Nittany Lions also need more difference-makers at wide receiver and tight end. They helped themselves in the 2012 class with wide receiver Eugene Lewis, ranked as the nation's No. 34 wideout by ESPN Recruiting. Tight end Jesse James is another nice pickup.


Offensive line has been a position of stability for Purdue the past few seasons, but the Boilers lose two starters from the 2011 squad (Dennis Kelly, Nick Mondek) and will say goodbye to several more after 2012. Purdue had to reload up front, and the two highest-rated players in the 2012 class, according to ESPN Recruiting -- Jordan Roos and Cameron Cermin -- all play offensive line.


Quarterback is undoubtedly Wisconsin's top priority as Russell Wilson departs and Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips battle back from major injuries. The Badgers needed a signal-caller in a small class and landed a decorated one in Bart Houston, a four-star prospect from California powerhouse De La Salle High School.

Recruiting needs: Legends Division

January, 31, 2012
Earlier today, we took a look at the recruiting needs of every team in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Now it's time to turn our attention to the Legends Division and see what positions each team needs to restock before next week's signing day:


Running backs: Iowa's problems with keeping running backs in school has been well documented, and the Hawkeyes lost leading rusher Marcus Coker and backup Mika'il McCall after off-the-field problems last season. The team really needs some more depth in the backfield, and don't be surprised if incoming freshman Greg Garmon pushes for playing time immediately.

Defensive linemen: Iowa had three defensive linemen drafted off the 2010 team and now loses its top two guys up front in departing seniors Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels. That's an awful lot of talent to replace in a couple of years, and the Hawkeyes can't expect to improve their defense without doing so. Finding some more pass rushers off the edge will be key.

Wide receivers: Marvin McNutt had a wonderful senior season, but the passing game often stalled whenever he couldn't wiggle free. Now he's gone, leaving a void at the position. Kevonte Martin-Manley and Keenan Davis have shown promise, but James Vandenberg could use some more weapons. Iowa has secured commitments from three receivers in this class.


Wide receiver: The loss of Darryl Stonum, who was dismissed following another run in with the law, created a void at receiver, especially with top pass-catcher Junior Hemingway out of eligibility. The Wolverines will have to hope Roy Roundtree can bounce back with a big season, because all other wideout options are unproven at this point. Three receivers are committed to Brady Hoke in this class.

Defensive line: Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen were key cogs in Michigan's run to the Sugar Bowl title in 2011, and they have both moved on, along with starter Will Heininger. Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are defensive line coaches at heart and will want to grab as many difference makers as they can at that key position. Ondre Pipkins, a 325-pound tackle, is the highest rated defensive lineman in the Wolverines' class right now.

Offensive line: While the Wolverines should be fine on the O-line in 2012, even without Rimington Trophy winner David Molk and starting right tackle Mark Huyge, they signed only four offensive linemen total in the past two classes. Since linemen are often slow to develop, they need to refill the cupboard now. Michigan has four offensive linemen committed in this class, including standout Kyle Kalis.

Michigan State

Offensive tackles: Thanks in large part to injuries, Michigan State had to move a defensive lineman (Dan France) to tackle last summer and plug in a junior-college transfer (Fou Fonoti) into the other tackle spot. That the Spartans won the Legends Division title despite that is kind of amazing in retrospect. France will be a junior in 2012 and Fonoti will be in his final year of eligibility. They need more depth at the position, and they've got commitments from two offensive tackles so far in this class.

Wide receivers: Two of the most successful receivers in school history are gone as Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham finished off wildly productive careers. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett is seeking a waiver to play immediately and will help the future even if he has to sit out a year. Michigan State is looking to sign three other receivers in this class to fill out the future two-deep.

Running back: Edwin Baker's early entry to the NFL draft came as a surprise. Michigan State is still in good shape at tailback for 2012 with Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper. But after not signing a running back in last year's class, Mark Dantonio could use at least one more option in the backfield.


Defensive backs: It was no secret that Minnesota's pass defense was brutal at times in 2011, and top tackler Kim Royston leaves a hole at safety with his graduation. Getting Troy Stoudermire back for an extra year helps, but Jerry Kill needs to upgrade the talent in the secondary. That's why he has signed three junior-college defensive backs and secured commitments from four high school safeties so far.

Defensive tackle: One of the reasons the pass defense was so bad was a lack of pass rush applied by the front four. The Gophers had only 19 sacks this season, a year after registering just nine. Making matters worse, both starting tackles were seniors this season. Kill signed a junior-college defensive tackle and has two prep tackles committed. He needs to find guys who can find their way to the quarterback.

Overall talent and depth: Kill has said there are gaps in the Gophers' classes, and depth issues could plague the team during his rebuilding efforts. Including six junior-college players signed to help right away, Minnesota has a class of 28 right now. Minnesota simply needs more bodies everywhere.


Linebacker: Lavonte David leaves some rather large cleats to fill. Not only was he Nebraska's leading tackler the past two seasons, he was the only linebacker who played at a consistently high level. The Huskers' starters at the other two linebacker spots will be seniors this year, and depth is thin behind them. So it's little wonder why Bo Pelini has used four spots so far in what is expected to be a small class to fill that position, led by four-star prospect Michael Rose.

Tight end: Three of the top four options at tight ends will be seniors in 2012, leaving very little behind them. Sam Cotton, son of offensive line coach Barney Cotton and younger brother of current Huskers tight end Ben, is on his way to help.

Quarterback: Taylor Martinez is entrenched as the starter going into his junior year, and Nebraska never had to worry about playing Brion Carnes in a big spot this year after Bubba Starling opted for baseball. Still, it's dangerous to not have depth at quarterback, and so the Huskers need to add at least one signal caller in this class.


Defensive backs: The Wildcats were burned repeatedly in the passing game in 2011, and their best defensive back (safety Brian Peters) won't be around next season. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has commitments from three safeties in this class already.

Defensive playmakers: Northwestern was shockingly short on guys who could blow up another team's offensive play in 2011, so Fitzgerald's main mission had to be finding more guys who played like he did in college. That aim got a big boost when stud defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo committed to play in Evanston. That's a good start.

Wide receivers: Highly productive star receiver Jeremy Ebert is gone, along with starter Charles Brown. Venric Mark and Christian Jones have a lot of potential as the next big passing targets, but Northwestern's spread offense feeds off of speed and depth at the receiver position. Four receivers have given the Wildcats their pledge in this class.
Iowa has little trouble producing quality running backs. Keeping them on the team is an entirely different story.

Marcus Coker on Tuesday became the latest promising Iowa ball-carrier to depart the program. The team announced Coker asked for a release from his scholarship, which was granted. The sophomore also didn't enroll for the spring semester at Iowa.

Of all the Hawkeyes' running back departures -- Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, Jewel Hampton, Mika'il McCall -- Coker's is the most mysterious and potentially the most damaging. Head coach Kirk Ferentz still hasn't specified why Coker was suspended for the Insight Bowl -- the team called it a violation of university policy and the student-athlete code of conduct. While McCall seemed likely to return after his suspension, Coker's situation seemed different. Athletic director Gary Barta said last month that Coker had an invitation to return to the team.

But it didn't pan out and Iowa once again will be scrambling at running back heading into the 2012 season.

Coker isn't just good -- he finished second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally in rushing average (115.3 ypg) -- but he's also durable and productive, logging 23.4 carries per game, tops among Big Ten backs. As a big back with two more years to mature, Coker could have been a special player at Iowa.

The Hawkeyes will tun to Jordan Canzeri, who provided a nice spark at times in the Insight Bowl, and others at running back in the 2012 season. But Ferentz and his staff need to address what has become a revolving-door position. Why are so many promising running backs on the field struggling so much off of it? The team now has had five running backs depart in the past year and a half.

Not good at all.
"I wish I could explain it," Ferentz told me last month. "There's no conspiracy theory or anything like that. We've just had some situations. You have to evaluate each one on an individual basis. We have had our share of transactions and transition. We'll get it settled down again."

They had better.

Insight Bowl: Iowa vs. Oklahoma

December, 29, 2011
If you'd told Iowa fans before the season they'd be playing their bowl game in Arizona against Oklahoma, they would have been thrilled at the thought of making the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Instead, both teams underachieved and find themselves in Friday's Insight Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg and receiver Marvin McNutt. With starting running back Marcus Coker suspended, the Hawkeyes likely will have to rely on the passing game more than ever. That means Vandenberg and McNutt, who hooked up 78 times this season but were stymied in the season-ending loss at Nebraska. Oklahoma, even without the suspended Ronnell Lewis, can pressure the quarterback and finished the season ranked seventh nationally in sacks. The Sooners' pass defense, though, has been vulnerable at times this season, so Vandenberg will have a chance to make some plays if his offensive line protects. McNutt will wrap up a fantastic career in the desert; he needs four more catches to set the school's single-season record and seven to break the Hawkeyes' career mark.

WHAT TO WATCH: Who will run the ball for Iowa? Coker was a workhorse all season, averaging over 23 carries per game. Backup Mika'il McCall's status is still unclear, perhaps leaving rushing duties to sparingly used freshmen De'Andre Johnson, Jordan Canzeri or Damon Bullock. Coker himself emerged as a star in last season's Insight Bowl after the suspension of Adam Robinson, but a similar situation developing this year would come as more of a surprise. Also keep an eye on the Hawkeyes' defense, which often struggled this season to stop big plays and rush the passer. They will need Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns up front to create some havoc and for Micah Hyde and Shaun Prater to guard the back end to slow down Landry Jones and the Sooners' passing attack.

WHY TO WATCH: Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the preseason and for most of the first month of the season. Even with some key injuries and suspensions, the Sooners still have loads of talent and will give Iowa one of its toughest tests of the season. The Hawkeyes, though, have won three straight bowl games under Kirk Ferentz, including last year's Insight Bowl in an exciting game against Missouri. Their defense should be motivated to perform in the final game for retiring defensive coordinator Norm Parker. Many have pegged Iowa as the biggest underdog of bowl season, but Oklahoma's motivation has to be questioned as the team had much higher aspirations than this. The fact that Sooners coach Bob Stoops is an Iowa graduate and close friend of Ferentz adds some drama to the proceedings.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma 27, Iowa 20. The Hawkeyes hang around as Oklahoma comes out a little flat. But the loss of Coker is just too much to overcome and will force Iowa to be too one-dimensional on offense. The Sooners' defense picks off Vandenberg a couple of times and holds on for the win.

Iowa running back curse continues

December, 20, 2011
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.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Coker
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIREStar RB Marcus Coker will not be allowed to play in the Hawkeyes' bowl game against Oklahoma.
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.

Iowa likely will turn to DeAndre Johnson, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock and Jason White at running back. Johnson leads the crew with just 18 carries this season.


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.

Big Ten stock report, Week 2

September, 7, 2011
Every Wednesday during the season, we'll take a look at which players/teams/issues in the Big Ten are on the rise and which ones are on the decline. And after a couple more games are in the books, we'll give you a weekly report on where the various player-of-the-year races stand.

Let's check the stock pages:

Stock up

[+] EnlargeSilas Redd
Rob Christy/US PresswireSilas Redd started off the season with a strong 104-yard performance on just 12 carries.
Penn State running backs: Silas Redd had a terrific opening-week performance against Indiana State, rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 attempts. Brandon Beachum averaged nearly six yards per carry on his seven attempts. Of course, running it against Indiana State is not quite the same as doing so against Alabama, so stay tuned.

Michigan defense: This could best be described as a buy low opportunity. The Wolverines kept Western Michigan out of the end zone after the first quarter (granted, there was no fourth quarter last week in Ann Arbor), and two Michigan defenders -- linebacker Brandon Herron and defensive back Jordan Kovacs -- received national recognition for their play. I'd still advise you to hold on this stock, but at least it's trending upward from the past couple of years.

Joe Bauserman: The Ohio State quarterback proved he could be more than just a capable backup with a strong outing (three passing touchdowns, one rushing) against an admittedly weak Akron defense. Bauserman even flashed his wheels on a 15-yard touchdown scramble. Terrelle Who?

Illinois discipline: The Illini didn't commit a single penalty against Arkansas State, the first time in 18 years an Illinois team kept the yellow flags off the field an entire game. Only two other teams in the country, Eastern Michigan and Navy, went penalty-free in Week 1.

Max Shortell: The Minnesota quarterback couldn't complete the comeback charge against USC and threw an interception on the Gophers' final drive. But considering that Shortell is a true freshman who was pushed into action in the fourth quarter when MarQueis Gray went out with cramps, his performance (7-for-13 for 98 yards and touchdown) was pretty impressive. He's got poise and a bright future.

Stock down

Iowa running backs: Marcus Coker couldn't build on his breakout bowl performance in the opener, rushing for only 41 yards and fumbling twice against Tennessee Tech. Worse, Mika'il McCall broke his right ankle and is out for the season after putting together some nice runs while Coker was benched. I expect much better things from Coker, but the Hawkeyes have had a lot of recent drama in their backfield.

Spartans special teams: The kicking game was a huge factor for Michigan State last year. But in the first week, Spartans special teams were less than special. Freshman punter Mike Sadler averaged just 38.3 yards per punt, normally reliable place-kicker Dan Conroy missed a 27-yarder and a muffed punt return led to Youngstown State's lone score. Too early to panic, but Michigan State will need to be better in those areas with its daunting road schedule.

Purdue discipline: Unlike Illinois, the Boilermakers drew all kinds of yellow hankies in their opener. Purdue was flagged 11 times for 95 yards in its nail-biting win over Middle Tennessee. Only two other teams, Oregon and Western Kentucky, were penalized more. The Boilers don't have enough margin for error to be making those kinds of mistakes.

Minnesota's pass defense: Robert Woods is probably going to make a lot of teams look bad. Yet the Gophers still allowed the USC star to catch a staggering 17 passes for 177 yards and three scores. Minnesota's defense improved in the second half, but it will have get much better overall to compete in the Big Ten.

Hoosier hysteria: An opening week loss to Ball State threw some cold water on the excitement surrounding new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. The Hoosiers are an underdog this week at home against Virginia. But it's early; don't sell this stock just yet.
After a lengthy lightning delay, Iowa has completed its season-opening win against Tennessee Tech.

Iowa 34, Tennesee Tech 7: After losing quite a few familiar faces to the NFL draft, Iowa used a bunch of new personnel in its opening win against Tennessee Tech. Quarterback James Vandenberg had a solid opening performance, completing 13 of 21 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Receiver Marvin McNutt showed why he's the team's clear-cut No. 1 receiver (6 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs), and the defense held Tennessee Tech scoreless for more than three quarters. A likely season-ending ankle injury to freshman running back Mika'il McCall, two fumbles by top running back Marcus Coker and spotty play by the second-team defensive line were among the downsides to the opener. Linebacker James Morris (10 tackles, INT) had a nice performance.
After receiving a lot of love in the preseason, Iowa sophomore running back Marcus Coker is off to a shaky start in 2011.

The Hawkeyes sophomore was benched after twice fumbling early in today's opener against Tennessee Tech. He fumbled his first carry of the season, and Tennessee Tech recovered. Iowa recovered the second fumble.

To be fair, the weather conditions in Iowa City are less than stellar -- some torrential rain before kickoff -- but the Hawkeyes need to see better ball security from their lead back, who had some fumbles in the 2010 regular-season finale at Minnesota.

Freshman Mika'il McCall looked very good with 61 rushing yards on nine carries, although he appeared to hurt his ankle severely late in the quarter. Iowa leads 3-0.