Just when I was thinking, "hey, Iowa's doing great at keeping out of trouble this off season" Greg Garmon gets arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Not only does that dirty Iowa's clean slate this summer, it is also an awful reminder that the Hawkeyes are painfully thin at running back. So even though this news is a week old, it still seems as good of a time as any to talk about running backs.
The cynic inside of me, and probably inside of all Hawkeye fans at this point when it comes to RBs, envisions something like this: Garmon comes in and is disciplined. He misses a game or two and gets fewer reps in practice. As a result, he sinks to 5th or 6th on the depth chart behind a bunch of other underclassmen. With little prospect of playing anytime soon, Garmon decides to take his talents to Southern Illinois. (Sound familiar?)
We don't have a lot of precedent here when it comes to kids getting arrested prior to reporting for summer conditioning. Riley Reiff had his half-naked, drunken Pita-Pit incident before his freshman year. I don't recall if he was suspended or if Kirk Ferentz ever really addressed the matter. The discipline didn't really matter as Reiff red-shirted that year. Garmon is/was expected to come in and compete for the starting spot right away. A red-shirt seems very unlikely sans injury.
Garmon's case is somewhat close to Michael Malloy, who was arrested with similar charges last summer. At the time, he had committed to Iowa, but with his arrest had his scholarship offer withdrawn. Malloy is now joining the team as a walk-on. While I'd be surprised if Iowa follows suit with Garmon and pulls his scholarship, it is a possibility. I'd bet, with the offers he had (Ohio State, Arkansas, Florida State, etc...), he wouldn't walk on.
Anyway. We likely won't hear anything from Ferentz on this subject for some time (maybe at the B1G Media Days). We have had a little update on the situation from Garmon himself via Facebook. He is schedule to arrive in Iowa City for conditioning on Sunday. Whatever the discipline, hopefully Garmon's story closely matches Reiff's and in a few years he'll be drafted in the first round.
As for the running back situation
Though the entire depth chart at running back is extremely young, there are some interesting prospects. The way things are going, it looks like a committee approach is likely. I don't think it'll be a straight rotation like it was a couple of years ago with Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. I think Greg Davis will find the strength of each back and then use them situationally or in certain packages.
Damon Bullock kind of lost a year last year flip flopping between receivers and RB. He, by all accounts, had a solid spring and had one of the best plays during the spring open scrimmage, an 84-yard touchdown. I'd put him as the front runner right now for the starting spot. His ability to catch the ball should also help his cause. He's probably a good back for 1st or 2nd downs when he can catch the ball out of the backfield when the defense may be thinking run.
Brad Rogers will give Iowa some options too. Rogers, as a junior, is the most experienced back the Hawkeyes have, and he's too good of a player to sit on the bench. I think the coaches will find ways to use him. He'll mostly play fullback, but I could see him used as the tailback in short yardage situations. Greg Davis also mentioned the possibility of having Rogers block for a running back one play, then the next, with the same personnel, split the running back (I'm thinking of Bullock here) out as a receiver and have Rogers as the loan back to run or pass block.
De'Andre Johnson is the only other scholarship running back that won't be a true freshman. He's battled injuries some and hovered around 3rd string last year. Like Bullock he has shown some ability in open practices (I remember him breaking an Adrian Clayborn tackle during Kids Day 2 summers ago), but has minimal game experience (most of his carries came against Tennessee Tech after play was suspended due to that crazy torrential downpour).
The two incoming non-Garmon freshman are Barkley Hill and Nate Meier. Both are Iowa kids. The tides have been shifting lately to Hill as the target of lofty expectations. He ran a similar offense to Iowa's presumed offense (at least running game) in high school and is built to run between the tackles. Hill seems more like an every down type of back that any of the others. Meier is a little more of an unknown. We've seen 8-man football talent thrive at Iowa before, but it's kind of hard to predict. It would be great if Iowa could afford to red-shirt Meier to spread out some of the talent eligibility-wise, but I'm guessing it'll be all hands on deck.
And then there were walk-ons. Andre Dawson, after a year at UNI then a year at Iowa Western, joined the team as a junior in the spring and got a lot of reps during spring ball. He went to Washington High School in Cedar Rapids (Go Warriors!!), so we could be seeing a Paki 2.0 or something here. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the sees the field before any of the true freshman during the non-conference schedule.
The other walk-on to keep an eye on is the aforementioned Michael Malloy. Prior to his arrest, he was the first in-state commit and was expected to come in and have a shot at playing running back or receiver. He didn't play a lot of football last year though, so there may be some rust to knock off. Similar to De'Andre Johnson, Malloy suffered a season-ending injury during his senior season (plus he missed two games because of his arrest). Johnson took his first year on campus getting back up to speed and red-shirted. Malloy might do the same.
So with Garmon or without (I really don't think it'll be without) Iowa has options. But how those options are going to come together to form a formidable rushing rotation is anyone's guess. Hey, who knows, maybe Iowa will ditch the running game all together and let Vandenberg just sling the ball around. It's the season of change, right?