Hawkeye fullback Cox lost for season with ACL tear

Pat Harty, Iowa City Press-Citizen

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Junior Macon Plewa is now the starting fullback for the Iowa football team, but his promotion comes at a heavy price.

Plewa became the starter after fellow junior and close friend Adam Cox suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in practice this week.

Cox, who played extensively in all 13 games last season, will miss the entire 2014 season, paving the way for Plewa to start.

"It was definitely different without him," Plewa said after Saturday's Kids Day practice at Kinnick Stadium. "He's my brother. Everyone calls us the Bash Brothers. So it's not the same without him in there. But I'm trying to make the best of it. We're definitely waiting for his return."

Statistics hardly tell the story about what Cox meant to last season's team, which finished 8-5 overall. The Chana, Ill., native only rushed four times for 16 yards, but he often was the lead blocker for Iowa's power running game.

A converted linebacker, Plewa appeared in 11 games last season as Cox's backup at fullback. Plewa had one carry for seven yards and caught three passes for 21 yards.

"I'm ready to embrace the opportunity," said Plewa, a 6-foot-2, 236-pound native of Franklin, Wis. "With or without Adam, I was ready to compete whether it was on offense or special teams.

"Whenever I'm on the field, I want to try my best and do the best for the team."

Plewa described Cox's injury as a "freak accident" and said it came on a routine play.

"He kind of just ran up in there," Plewa said. "I don't know the details of it. But it happened."

The good news with regard to Cox's situation is that he was put on scholarship just days before the injury occurred. He and Plewa both joined the team as walk-ons in 2011.

"That's the bright side, at least," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "The other bright side is he's not a senior. So at least he has another year."

Plewa and Cox have been friends and roommates since they arrived on campus. Plewa switched from linebacker to fullback in the spring of 2013, giving them another link.

"It definitely makes you think about life and everything," Plewa said of Cox's injury. "He's a really good friend of mind. He's been a roommate really since Day 1 when I got to campus.

"And to see him going through what he is, it puts things in perspective. It makes you appreciate coming out to practice and being able to run and play and compete."

Injuries have been a problem throughout preseason practice, as evidenced by all the players out of uniform on Saturday. The list includes tight ends Ray Hamilton and Jake Duzey; receivers Derrick Willies, Andre Harris, Damond Powell and Jay Scheel; cornerback Greg Mabin; and defensive linemen Darian Cooper, Riley McMinn and Terrence Harris.

"You talk about a negative of camp, that's one of them," Ferentz said of injuries.

Sophomore receiver Riley McCarron was in noticeable pain after making a catch during Saturday's practice.

"Riley came down hard over there on that nice catch he made," Ferentz said. "So that's concerning right now."

Freshman defensive back Jalen Embry also missed Saturday's practice, but Ferentz didn't give a reason.

Cox's injury triggered two position changes as Drake Kulick and Steve Manders both switched from linebacker to fullback this week.

Senior Mark Weisman could be another option at fullback, but Ferentz would prefer to keep Weisman at running back, where he is listed as the starter. The 6-foot, 240-pound Weisman started all 13 games at running back last season, compilingr a team-high 975 yards.

However, Weisman also started at fullback in the first three games of the 2012 season before switching to running back.

"Hopefully not, but if we had to, we could use Mark as a fullback," Ferentz said Saturday. "But hopefully, we can keep him where he is and keep him fresh. But the good news is he totally capable of that."

As for Plewa, he feels more prepared this season compared with a year ago.

"Confidence-wise, I think it's a lot better," Plewa said. "I worked on my strength and conditioning in the offseason and just being able to come out here and know exactly what you're doing, kind of swinging the club as coach Ferentz said. It helps. You just focus on your job. It feel like I have a better chance to compete than I did last year."