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Russell Gets The Nod At RB

Russell Gets The Nod At RB

9/2/2002 by Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation


At some point in time during the first half, Fred Russell was breathing heavy.

It wasn’t because he was tired. After all, he carried the ball just six times in the first half, but racked up 123 yards and two scores.

He was breathing heavy sighs of relief, as in he finally got his chance to get on the field with the number one offensive unit and show the fans and the coaches just what he is capable of.

”It was a relief to get out there and show people what I could do,” said Russell on Saturday.

Russell has always been a very humble person. So it should come as no surprise that after having eclipsed his 2001 season rushing total of 145 yards against Akron (Russell had 170 yards against the Zips on just 14 carries), he was not in the mood for a debate about the running back position being wide open.

”I leave that up to you all.” Russell said respectfully, but seriously. “I am just doing the same thing that Aaron (Greving) did last year when Ladell (Betts) would get a breather.”

Speaking of Betts, it would seem that more than just some good running back skills has rubbed off on his former understudy’s, as Russell and Jermelle Lewis sounded like old number 46 during the interview sessions in how they deflected the praise to everyone else on the team.

When asked about his great runs, Russell responded with “The line did a heck of a job today. It was a blessing.”

Lewis added, “I have to give all of the credit to the offensive line. They just did a great job out there today and it doesn’t get any easier than it was for a running back.”

Again, it was Russell’s first moment in the sun during his collegiate career, and all he could think to talk about was the performance of his teammates.

When asked if he realized how impressive his performance was, he segued into talking about Lewis.

”I did alright today, but Aaron and I are always talking about Jermelle. We have felt that once he gets it going, he is going to be scary. He probably is the most talented back we have on the entire team.”

Not that his statement isn’t believable after watching Lewis run for 124 yards on 19 carries in his Iowa Hawkeye debut. Lewis and Russell each scored two touchdowns.

When Lewis was asked about his performance and how he felt with his debut, it was all about the team.

”I feel very confident about this offense. We got a lot of things done today, but we still have a lot of things to clean up, but we looked good.”

So much for drawing them out.

But we were able to get a few comments from one person who has coached some of the best collegiate and professional running backs of all time, Iowa backs coach Carl Jackson.

”Russell is a tremendous athlete and has tremendous speed. Fred pound for pound is probably the strongest player on our football team. He has worked very hard in the passing game and spent a lot of time after practice to improve his pass catching skills. I am excited about him.” Jackson told earlier in August.

Russell caught one pass for 12 yards on the day, the only ball thrown his way.

Jackson had this to say with regards to Lewis before knowing that Greving would hurt his ankle in fall drills: “You have to always be prepared. You are one snap away from playing when you are the backup.”

”We have been lucky to have a Betts who played every game. I think that you need to have three good tailbacks. There is a chance that he (Lewis) could play a lot this year. I think he has matured and is ready to prove himself.”

Make no mistake, Jackson knows what he is talking about.

Russell and Lewis made their auditions on Saturday, just as Greving made his at the Alamo Bowl last December.

While the starting tailback waters may be as murky as they have ever been, one thing is certain: Iowa has three running backs who are capable of helping this team win football games.

Hey stat geeks (I use that term affectionately, as I am one of you): Iowa is #4 in the nation in rushing offense.

Bring on the Redhawks.

Hawkeye NationHawkeye Nation was founded by Jon Miller, and later acquired by Rivals and Sports Illustrated. You can visit them at

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