Canzeri Adds Depth at Running Back

Sept. 29, 2011

Ferentz, Parker, O’Keefe Press Conference

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A bye week in college football gives coaches more exposure to younger players on the roster. That process started a week earlier for a University of Iowa running back who turned heads during a 45-17 win against the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Sept. 24.

Jordan Canzeri, a 5-foot-9, 172-pound freshman from Troy, N.Y., officially carried the ball five times for 30 yards and a long of 12 against the Warhawks. It was the first action of his college career.

Canzeri was one of the hot topics Thursday when UI head coach Kirk Ferentz, defensive coordinator Norm Parker and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe met with media in the player’s auditorium in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.

“Canzeri’s situation, we kind of saw that coming during the week,” said Ferentz, who also discussed seeing the rookie running back on tape for the first time. “I assume he was being overlooked — at least in our minds he was being overlooked — because of his size. He looked like a really good, productive player and a tough, hard nosed guy on film.”

Canzeri entered the game in the fourth quarter with the Hawkeyes ahead, 42-17. On first-and-10 from the ULM 36 he burst through a hole on the left side of the offensive line for 12 yards. Two plays later it was another 12-yard gain. By the time the series was over, Canzeri picked up 24 yards on four carries. On Iowa’s next series he had a long run called back because of a holding penalty, and then wrapped up his day with a six-yard gain.

“We are happy with what we saw,” O’Keefe said. “There’s no doubt about it, and I think that’s what we expected him to be able to do.”

Canzeri adds to an offensive backfield that includes sophomore Marcus Coker (87 carries, 380 yards, four touchdowns), redshirt freshman De’Andre Johnson (8-32-0), freshman Damon Bullock (8-22-0) and junior Jason White (2-11-0). Freshman Mika’il McCall (9-61-0) was lost for the season in the first half against Tennessee Tech.

Coker is clearly on top of the depth chart, but after that, playing time and carries are up for grabs, Ferentz said.

“Marcus is our No. 1 running back that’s for sure and I think Jason White has got a really nice roll carved out and we feel pretty comfortable with how he’s being used and after that it’s wide open,” Ferentz said. “I know this: We have eight very tough teams ahead of us and we are going to need everybody all of the help we can get at all positions, and Jordan has really elevated himself a little bit in this equation.”

Canzeri wasn’t the only first-year player to remove his redshirt against ULM. Another was linebacker Quinton Alston (6-1, 220) from Sicklerville, N.J. He finished the game with a solo tackle.

Ferentz is unsure if any other true freshmen will see action this season.

“You never know, it depends on the progress that the first-year guys make that are being red shirted right now,” Ferentz said. “If some of them start to emerge — which Jordan and Quinton have — and if a situation arises that we think they can help us, we are going to put them in there. As long as they are agreeable to it, they have got a vote on that, also.”

Ferentz said his program treats bye week like it does practices in early December, when regulars catch their breath and untested players get “caught up.”

“It’s a chance to get them caught up a little bit, and the guys that have been doing the heavy work on Saturdays, we try to rest them and give them a chance to heal the bumps and bruises,” Ferentz said. “But it gives us exposure to younger guys and we sneak those moments in during September.”

Ferentz provided an injury update, saying fullback Brad Rogers and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan have returned to the practice field and are working on a limited basis. Defensive back B.J. Lowery is still several weeks away.

The bye week also provided Ferentz and his staff time to come up with a hypothetical game plan.

“I think we’ll probably go about 50 percent blitz the rest of the season, 100 percent no huddle,” Ferentz joked. “That’s about what we have come up with.”

Iowa returns to action Oct. 8 at Penn State with a 2:30 p.m. (CT) kickoff. The game will be televised live on ABC or ESPN, depending on the location.