Aug. 9, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A year ago, Mark Weisman sat alone on media day, an unknown fullback on the University of Iowa football roster. There were no cameras, no microphones, and no interest from reporters who had no clue if his name was spelled with two S’s or two N’s.
That was before a 113-yard, three-touchdown relief effort against Northern Iowa. And a 217-yard, three-touchdown effort against Central Michigan. And a 177-yard, one-touchdown effort against Minnesota. And a 116-yard, one-touchdown effort at Michigan State.
You get the picture. When the season ended, Weisman had three starts at fullback, six starts at running back and a team-high 815 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. That is a nice statistics line, considering he missed games against Indiana and Purdue with an injury that also limited him to 30 yards on 14 carries against Penn State and Northwestern.
“You have to be tough mentally,” said Weisman, who acknowledged that he had a lot more `friends’ Thursday at media day than he had at the 2012 event. “You have to always be focused in at meetings and studying the playbook. Even if you think you might not play, you never know. There have been tons of `Next Man In’ stories at Iowa.”
The 2012 season started slowly for Weisman, who did not have a carry in Week 2 against Iowa State. In the opener against Northern Illinois, he ran the ball twice, moving the chains on a fourth-down carry and a third-down carry in the third period.
“You have to be tough mentally. You have to always be focused in at meetings and studying the playbook. Even if you think you might not play, you never know. There have been tons of `Next Man In’ stories at Iowa.”
Weisman isn’t concerned about whether you call him a fullback or running back, as long as it improves the Hawkeyes’ chances of victory.
“It doesn’t matter; whatever the coaches tell me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability and try to help the team,” he said.
One thing Weisman knows is that wherever he lines up in the backfield, he has an impressive group of blockers in front. Guys like Brandon Scherff, Andrew Donnal, Nolan MacMillan, Conor Boffeli, Austin Blythe, Jordan Walsh and Brett Van Sloten, not to mention one of the best groups of tight ends in the country.
“They make our job so easy,” Weisman said. “It is unbelievable running behind those guys. I can’t say enough about them, and the scary thing is that everyone is getting better. It is a very good scary.”
It was easy to gain access to McCarron on Thursday. Like Wesiman a year ago, there were few pens and notepads in front of McCarron’s face. He isn’t listed on the two-deep, but he wants to become a contributor at wide receiver. UI head coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned his name when talking about the team’s punt and kick returners.
“I’m in the slot with Kevonte (Martin-Manley),” McCarron said. “In the spring I was running with the (second unit), learning from Kevonte and learning the whole offense. Right now we have a competitive group of guys; this whole camp will be a battle and we’ll find out when camp is over.”
Unlike Weisman, who is from Bufflao Grove, Ill., McCarron is from the Hawkeye state.
“I’m not too far from home, this is my home state,” McCarron said. “To be close to the hometown and see all these fans is great. I was a fan growing up, too, so I know how it feels. I wanted to play football and I wanted to play football at the highest level. The University of Iowa is the perfect place to do that for me. It’s a great opportunity and I want to take full advantage.”
McCarron is the smallest of the 17-member Hawkeye receiving group that includes just three others less than 6-feet tall. Because of that, he has drawn comparisons on message boards to NFL receiver Wes Welker, now with the Denver Broncos.
“We all have our strengths and weaknesses,” said McCarron, who cites speed and quickness as his positives. “I want to contribute to the offense this year and I want to be part of the team and be out there on the field with the team on Saturdays contributing to wins.”
Weisman and McCarron are two Hawkeyes who joined the program as walk-ons. Weisman received the team’s offensive Next Man In Award in 2012.
It remains to be seen who will garner the 2013 honor.
Single-game tickets for all seven Hawkeye home contests inside Kinnick Stadium are available on hawkeyesports.com. Iowa opens the season Aug. 31, hosting Northern Illinois at 2:30 p.m. (CT).