This week’s Iowa depth chart had a noticeable change that didn’t have to do with injuries for once. Hawkeyes sophomore Kaleb Johnson had received plenty of hype and many expected him to take a leap this season — and not to say he hasn’t, but something else happened that was rather unpredictable.
Junior Leshon Williams ascended into an RB1 role, and head coach Kirk Ferentz made it official on the depth chart this week.
“It might have something to do with that 82-yard run, I mean [expletive],” Ferentz said. “Pardon my French, but that was a big play for us. He ran the ball extremely well.”
“We’ve got faith in all of our guys, including the two young guys who may be entered on Saturday too, you never know. These guys are all going to have to help us play and we’re going to run the ball if we’re gonna win — there’s no question about that.”
“I didn’t know that,” Williams said in reaction to a reporter telling him he’s listed as the starting running back. “I mean, I’ve still got to go out there and do my job. Just because I’m gonna start or that I’m listed as a starter at running back really don’t mean anything at the end of the day. So last week was my game. This week, it might be another person’s game. So at the end of the day, we’ve still gotta go out there and just do our job.”
“You never know how a game is gonna go until you’re in it,” quarterback Deacon Hill said. “You never know if it’s gonna be a dogfight. When he got out there in the run game it was going. I think it was just big to get that momentum rolling to establish that run game.”
It was established, no question. The Hawkeyes averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 48 carries against Wisconsin — a 200-yard effort overall. Williams’ 82-yard run combined with 92 yards on another 24 carries turned into a 174-yard performance overall.
A fully healthy Johnson is now RB2. Jaziun Patterson has a chance to return to the lineup as well. He had 86 yards and a touchdown against Iowa State before suffering an injury the following week against Western Michigan.
Johnson, to his credit, had 134 yards and a 67-yard score against Purdue. He will be in the mix moving forward, but right now Williams has earned the right to be the top dog.
On the season, Williams has rushed 75 times for 459 yards — and a staggering 6.1 yards per carry. Johnson, on the other hand, has averaged 3.8.
The bottom line is the Hawkeyes had 37 receiving yards on 14 pass attempts on Sunday. Hill’s completed 12 passes in his first two starts. Iowa is going to need to run the football, and it appears they’ve got a stable of backs ready to handle the load.