By Jess Westendorf
Change has been a huge topic in Iowa City when it concerns the Iowa football team.
There will be change at quarterback, Brian Ferentz switched over to offensive coordinator, and could there be change at running back?
Iowa added Nevada graduate transfer James Butler to the roster for the upcoming season, and star standout Akrum Wadley welcomes him with open arms.
“I instantly thought of LeShun [Daniels] and me,” Wadley said. “The one thing that stuck out was the number of rushing yards, he rushed for over 1,300 yards, and we need him. The more the merrier.”
The backfield looks solid for this upcoming season, and obviously, Wadley will be front and center. After he had a stellar season last season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards, this off-season he has not just focused on himself but also on his teammates.
After finding out that Butler would join the Hawkeyes, Wadley wasted no time and started his research on someone he could potentially share the position with.
“I’ve seen a few clips, and he’s a good back,” he said. “He’s going to be a good fit for what we like to do.”
When asked if he could see himself on the field with Butler, his answer was straight to the point: “Yes, yes, why not?”
Running back is stacked this season with Wadley, sophomore Toks Akinribade, redshirt freshman Toren Young, and now Butler.
This might remind fans of a previous Iowa backfield that included Jordan Canzeri, Mark Weisman, and Daniels — a time when Wadley was learning the ins and outs while trying to make a name for himself.
FILE – In this file photo, Iowa running back Akrum Wadley breaks a tackle during Iowa’s West Des Moines open practice at the Valley High School Football Stadium on Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Margaret Kispert/The Daily Iowan, file)
Throughout his time at Iowa, there is one moment that stays at the forefront of his mind. The turning point had nothing to do with a game but an embarrassing misread play during practice.
“It was my turning point out there in Kinnick. I ran a drag, I was supposed to run a drag route, but I went the opposite way,” Wadley said. “If I had caught the ball, I probably would have scored a 50-yard run. But there was nobody there. I went the wrong way, and the QB in a real game would have gotten his head taken off. Because it was practice, I was embarrassed. I was trying to make a name for myself.”
After that practice, he wanted to avoid any mistakes and improve the mental part of the game. And probably getting chewed out by then-running-back coach Chris White.
“White, he let me have it,” Wadley said. “It was a route. That was embarrassing, just embarrassing.”
His work has paid off; his average per carry is 6.2, ranking best among Iowa running backs with more than 1,000 rushing yards. He is ranked 18th in career rushing (1,763 yards).
Even with Iowa adding new players to the roster, this summer is about him and improving the smallest things from footwork to weight to learning the new playbook.
Strength and weight have been a huge concentration point for him. He has a goal of 195 pounds and sticks to a strict diet. Currently, he is at 192.
But even when he isn’t scheduled to practice, Wadley still seems to find himself in the practice facility working on drills and footwork to give him that edge.
Iowa hopes for a big year from Wadley, especially competing in the Big Ten West, and there is no doubt whether he is doing his part to give Iowa what it needs.