By BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For University of Iowa assistant football coach Chris White, a successful run game starts with finding rhythm.
With a pair of experienced running backs — LeShun Daniels, Jr. and Akrum Wadley — in the backfield, Iowa’s success in the run game is contingent upon how well the duo complements one another.
Daniels, Jr., a senior, brings experience to the group. With 27 career games under his belt, he has relished his role as a physical back. The Warren, Ohio, native registered his third career 100-yard rushing game and scored a touchdown in Iowa’s, 42-3, stomping of Iowa State on Sept. 10.
“LeShun has really stepped up in terms of his leadership,” said White, Iowa’s running back and special teams coach. “He is really running physical for us right now, especially in short yardage situations. He’s getting his pads down. That was a big thing for us as far as finishing his runs. He’s done a great job with that.”
Wadley counters his senior teammate with speed and quick feet. The junior’s 7.6 yards per carry ranks second in the Big Ten (minimum 20 carries). He registered his fourth career 100-yard rushing game in week one against Miami (Ohio), running for 121 yards on 12 carries with two scores.
“Akrum has great play-making ability and he creates space on the field,” said White. “He’s really done a good job in the passing game of being physical with his protection. We are really counting on him in both the running and passing game.”
This week, the Hawkeyes look to exploit Rutgers’ defense with a rhythmic attack. The Scarlet Knight rushing defense is ranked 13th in the conference, allowing 178 yards per game.
“We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team,” said White. “I think we are at our best when we can establish both guys in the run, in the play action pass with C.J. (Beathard), and mixed in with the wide receivers we have.”
White also oversees Iowa’s special teams unit. Senior punter Ron Coluzzi has been a bright spot for the Hawkeyes this season, averaging 43.9 yards on 13 punts this season. The Naperville, Illinois, native has yet to allow a punt return this season — the only Big Ten player to do so — and 15 of his 19 kickoffs this season have been touchbacks.
Coluzzi and the Hawkeye coverage unit will be tested this week against Rutgers’ Janarion Grant. The Scarlet Knight return man helped his team to a comeback win over New Mexico with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown last week, and earned Special Teams Player of the Week honors following an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown — the fifth of his career — against Howard in Week 2.
“Grant is a dynamic and explosive returner, and we are going to have our work cut out for us this week,” said White. “The best thing we’ve done on special teams has been our kicking game in terms of touchbacks. Marshall (Koehn) was unbelievable at that last year, and Ron has been just as effective. The hang time on our punts has been really effective as well.
“We prefer for [Grant] to not have the opportunity to touch the ball. If Ron keeps doing what he’s been doing and the coverage units keep improving, we will be in good shape.”
The Hawkeyes open Big Ten play Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) against Rutgers. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, and Rocky Boiman on the call. Iowa hosts Northwestern on Saturday, Oct. 1 (11 a.m.), in its annual Homecoming game.
Tickets are still available for Iowa’s annual homecoming game against Northwestern on Oct. 1 (11 a.m.). To purchase tickets visit hawkeyesports.com, call 1-800-IA-Hawks, or visit the UI athletics ticket office located in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.