In the last four weeks, Mark Weisman has put up numbers that make it seem like he should switch the “W” in his last name to an “H.”
The Iowa running back has posted Hesiman Trophy contender-like statistics with eight touchdowns and 623 rushing yards on 98 carries in the team’s last four games (155.8 yards per game/6.4 yards per carry). In this four-game stretch, Weisman’s rushing yards have accounted for 42 percent of Iowa’s offense, but it hasn’t been all good news for him lately.
Near the end of the Iowa’s contest against Michigan State last Saturday, Weisman injured his ankle, and it does not sound like he will be fully healthy against Penn State this weekend.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday in a conference call that Weisman had MRIs done on Monday, and confirmed that the sophomore sprained his ankle.
“We’ll let him work lightly today and see where we’re at,” Ferentz said. “You’re asking a guy to play a position that’s pretty demanding on the lower body. We won’t really know until we see him at practice. Even if he did play, I don’t know how effective or how long he could play.”
A bruising 6-foot, 225-pound runner, Weisman was not listed on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart this week. Freshman Greg Garmon — who has 35 rushing yards on 14 attempts — was in the spot as their No. 1 tailback.
“Bottom line is we have to assume [Wesiman]’s not going to be there,” Ferentz said. “If he’s there, that’s great. We have to take the approach mentally that he’s not going to be there.”
Both Penn State and Iowa have dealt with multiple injuries in their respective backfields. The Nittany Lions also have their own version of Weisman in Zach Zwinak.
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound redshirt sophomore was unknown at the start of the season, but Zwinak now leads the team with 317 rushing yards. Penn State’s defense goes against Zwinak at practice, which helps the unit get ready for Weisman, injury or not.
“We realize right now he’s not on the depth chart, but we’re preparing as if he’ll be playing every down,” senior safety Jacob Fagnano said of Weisman. “We prepare for everybody they have, and obviously he’s a big part of their offense. So we prepare as if he’ll get the ball.”
Damon Bullock was the Hawkeyes’ starting running back at the beginning of the season, but he suffered a concussion on Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa. That opened the door for Weisman, who had a grand total of eight rushing yards in the first two games.
Bullock has not played since injuring his head and is also not listed on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart against Penn State. Jordan Canzeri, who has not rushed the ball yet this season, appears as Garmon’s backup.
Coach Bill O’Brien said his team’s defense needs to ready itself for Iowa’s rushing attack, even if Garmon is getting the bulk of the carries.
“They’ve blocked well for him, and he’s broken tackles, and he’s having a heck of a year,” O’Brien said about Weisman. “And then whoever they bring in next, whether it’s the young guy there, that’s another guy that’s a good player, it doesn’t alter our game plan. We just have to go in there and we have to play against the guys that line up against us.”
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