With the departure of Akrum Wadley and James Butler, Iowa needs its new running backs to step up and produce at a similar level as last year’s duo.
While there won’t be as much pressure on the backfield, given Nate Stanley’s experience along with the targets he has to throw to, the backs will be just fine.
And Ivory Kelly-Martin is going to shine.
Last year, Kelly-Martin rushed for 184 yards on 20 carries for any average of 9.2 yards per carry. In fact, he was just 9 yards shy of Toren Young’s mark on the year, but had 25 fewer carries.
Kelly-Martin’s big-play potential shone at
times last season, and he proved it by being the most efficient back on the Hawkeye roster.
He also scored 3 touchdowns on the ground,
which is crazy when you realize that he only had 20 carries. That’s nearly a touchdown every six touches.
Brian Ferentz is going to want to get an explosive playmaker such as Kelly-Martin involved in
the offense. Just as Ferentz tried to get the ball in the hands of Ihmir Smith-Marsette last year, I see something similar happening with Kelly-Martin, who also showed potential in the passing game, catching 4 passes for 25 yards and a touchdown.
When Kelly-Martin received 5 or more carries in 2017, he had his two best games of the year.
Against North Texas, Kelly-Martin ran for 74
yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 rushes, while gaining 90 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries against Nebraska in the regular season finale.
Now with Wadley and Butler gone, Kelly-Martin is going to get his chance to showcase his abilities. And just like last year, he is going to make the most of it.
— Pete Ruden
Year in and year out, the Hawkeye offense is built around its running game, and this year is sure to bring more of the same.
Because the offense is so run-heavy, Iowa likes to feature two backs, and having lost its running-back duo from last season, fans are going to see some new faces this year.
Those two new faces seem to be Ivory Kelly-Martin and Toren Young. While Iowa is known for a two-back system, there always seems to be one one who earns the title of “premier back.”
This season, that premier back will be Young.
Young is a bull-dog type runner, someone who relies more on strength than speed, which is directly the opposite of Kelly-Martin, who is more speed-oriented.
Iowa likes those kinds of running backs and has had success with them before; such names as LaShun Daniels and Shone Green come to mind.
It seems — barring anything out of the ordinary — that Young is destined to place his name alongside those past Iowa power runners.
In his limited on-field experience last season, he had some success, rushing for 193 yards with 2 touchdowns on 45 attempts.
That’s a very solid 4.3 yards per rush.
He also seems to have garnered some respect around the locker room, being one of two redshirt freshmen to be named to the 2017 leadership group.
While that may not say much about his on-field play, it says a lot about his ability to galvanize his teammates, which never hurts.
Young, who was preparing to be the secondary back last season before James Butler arrived, seems poised to have a great season for the Hawkeyes this coming season.
— Jordan Zuniga