By now, you’ve probably heard of David Johnson if you’re a college football fan in Iowa.
You’ve either cheered incessantly as he frustrated the state’s larger Division I defenses, or you’ve facepalmed again and again and again as he scooted down the field on your team’s home turf for the umpteenth time.
On Saturday, Johnson turned in another big outing for his FCS Panthers against one of Iowa’s FBS schools. He caught five balls against the Hawkeyes and turned them into 203 yards and a touchdown. Iowa State fans surely remember Johnson, who turned in a similar performance at Jack Trice last season. The then-junior running back totaled 199 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 28-20 win for the Panthers.
While Johnson was busy in Kinnick Stadium, the Cyclones had more than their hands full with North Dakota State and Bison running back John Crockett, who posted his own impressive state line — 8.2 yards per carry, 139 yards, 3 touchdowns.
After both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones played host to challenging running backs in their season openers, I took a peak at a few more names regulars at Jack Trice and Kinnick will have to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Shock Linwood, Baylor, at Iowa State Sept. 27
Cool name and cool game. The Big 12’s leading returning rusher, Linwood was one of five running backs in the conference named to the Doak Walker preseason award watch list and the only one who will visit Jack Trice this season.
Linwood set a Baylor school record last year for rushing yards by a freshman with 881. He ran for 369 of those in a pair of games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
If this year’s game is anything like last year’s in Waco, Linwood could approach 200 yards rushing against the Cyclones.
Kareem Hunt, Toledo, at Iowa State Oct. 11
Hunt may be one of the better running backs playing at Jack Trice or Kinnick this season that few have heard of.
The sophomore at Toledo ran for 100 yards five times last year as a freshman after he started receiving regular playing times in the second half of the season.
A win on homecoming for the Cyclones would likely stem from slowing down Hunt.
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, at Iowa Oct. 22
The Wisconsin junior has landed on several short lists of Heisman hopefuls for this season and for good reason. Gordan is as big a threat as any player in the Big Ten to score any time he touches the ball and is a highly thought of NFL prospect.
He ran for 1,609 yards last season, the second most in the Big Ten, and averaged 7.8 yards per carry, one of the highest marks in the country. He and teammate James White broke the FBS single-season record for yards by teammates with 3,053.
Gordon started the year with a 16-carry, 140-yard performance against LSU. He missed much of the second half with a hip injury, which seems to be one of the few, if not the only thing, that could slow him down.
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, at Iowa Oct. 28
Iowa finishes the season by facing the top two running backs in the Big Ten. Abdullah was the conference’s leading rusher last season with 1,690 yards, the most of any returning back in the country this year. He’s also eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing two years in a row.
Like Gordon, Abdullah will likely find himself in the NFL when his college days are done. He considered declaring after last season, but chose to return and began his senior year with a career-high 232 yards against Florida Atlantic last weekend.
The Hawkeye defense had success against Abdullah last year in Lincoln as Iowa was the only Big Ten team to hold him under 100 yards rushing. Doing so again this November could go a long way in beating the Huskers.
Contact Sports Writer Ben Schuff at (641) 792-3121 Ext. 6536 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.