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Hawkeyes excited to get Canzeri back

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Jordan Canzeri

Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri runs the ball during a game against Illinois, Saturday, Oct. 10.

IOWA CITY | Somebody might actually be more excited to see Jordan Canzeri back on the football field for Iowa than Jordan Canzeri.

The senior running back’s teammates are more than anxious to see what the Hawkeyes’ rushing attack can become when all of its pieces are finally in place.

“We’ve been waiting all season to see what it’s like when everybody is healthy," junior LeShun Daniels said. “The line and the fullbacks have done a great job of opening up holes for us. Now that it looks like we’re going to be at full strength, we want to see where it can lead."

That just might happen Saturday, when Iowa hosts Minnesota at 7 p.m. and Canzeri is expected to return to the field after missing two games because of an ankle sprain.

As long as a slight ankle injury suffered by Akrum Wadley last weekend at Indiana heals as he plans, the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes could have all four pieces of their running game healthy and ready to go at kickoff for the first time this season.

“Everybody keeps asking me how we’re going to rotate them. It’s been easy," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The guys who are healthy play, so they’ve helped us out with the little tweaks and injuries they’ve had."

An injury kept Derrick Mitchell out of Iowa’s season-opening win over Illinois State.

The following week at Iowa State, Daniels suffered an ankle sprain that initially limited him and eventually forced him to miss two games.

Canzeri took control at that point and piled up 698 yards before suffering his own ankle sprain during an Oct. 17 game at Northwestern.

Wadley responded with a 204-yard rushing performance for shorthanded Iowa that day, giving the Hawkeyes three backs who have gained 100 yards in a game during a single season for the first time since 2005.

“We all bring something a little different to the table," Wadley said. “Our skill sets are different enough that I think we can all help in different situations."

All of the Hawkeye backs are receiving an equal number of carries in practice and with Daniels and Wadley sharing the top line and Canzeri joining Mitchell on the second line, this week’s depth chart illustrates the depth of quality Iowa has at the position.

“We don’t view it as a competition. We’re helping each other all the time," Wadley said. “It’s a great situation."

That illustrates one other trait Iowa running backs share.

They’re ego free, one aspect Ferentz welcomes.

He calls the running back spot one of those positions on the field where “you can have jealousy creep in pretty quickly and pretty easily."

With Iowa’s current collection of backs, Ferentz said he senses mutual respect with the younger backs in Wadley and Mitchell respecting what Canzeri and Daniels bring to the team.

“We’re in this together and if we can all help the team in some way, I think there are plenty of carries to go around," Daniels said. “If we share the workload, it should keep everybody a little fresher."

Ferentz would welcome the opportunity to find out.

“If we have them all, we’ll play them all and if we have all four of them healthy, we’re a better football team," Ferentz said. “They understand that and we certainly believe that."

All have proven they are capable.

The four running backs have combined to rush for 1,623 of the 1,845 yards Iowa has picked up on the ground this season, averaging 5.25 yards per carry.

“Those guys are all doing their job, and it doesn’t seem to matter who is back there," quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “They’re helping move our offense and at the end of the day, that’s what we all want."

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